According to a Bangor Daily News article: "Thanks to an anonymously funded 10-day radio campaign that will begin this week, few area residents will be able to claim ignorance of a new citywide ban on smoking in vehicles when a child is present. ... According to Elinor Goldberg, executive director of the nonprofit Maine Children’s Alliance, an anonymous donor recently contributed $2,000 to pay for a radio campaign designed to alert people about the new ordinance. ... Goldberg acknowledged that many people object to the new ban as an erosion of civil liberties, but likened the initiative to measures that protect children against physical abuse at the hands of their parents. 'This isn’t about civil liberties at all,' she said. 'It’s about protecting children’s health.'"
"Larry Julius, market manager for Clear Channel Communications in Bangor, said two paid advertisements will start airing Friday, the day the smoking ban takes effect. ... 'I have been a supporter of this initiative from the beginning, and I am very proud to be part of a community where the health of its kids doesn’t take a back seat to the bad habits of their parents,' he said."
Supporters of a proposed car smoking ban in Rockland County, New York expressed similar arguments. According to an article in The Journal News: "Add automobiles to the growing list of places where smokers might soon be banned from lighting up.The Rockland County Board of Health adopted a resolution yesterday recommending that the county 'study the possibility of prohibiting smoking in automobiles when children under the age of 18 are present.' 'It makes a great deal of sense to prohibit smoking in cars,' said Dr. Jeffrey Oppenheim, a neurosurgeon and the member of the board who proposed the ban. 'Children don't have a choice when someone lights a cigarette in a car with closed windows.'"
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids expressed support for the proposed measure, stating (according to the article): "The evidence that secondhand smoke is harmful to children is so overwhelming that it trumps all other arguments."
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As well-intentioned as the proponents of these smoking bans might be, I'm afraid that their arguments leave a lot to be desired.
A law that bans smoking in cars with children present but allows smoking in homes with children present does not place the health of children above the smoking habit of their parents, nor does it put children's health above the protection of civil liberties.
If the Maine Children's Alliance were correct that: "This isn’t about civil liberties at all. It’s about protecting children’s health," then the Bangor City Council would have (and should have) banned smoking in the presence of children - period. Banning smoking in the very limited time that children are traveling in a car, but allowing it for the hours upon hours that children are in the home makes no public health sense at all, and it certainly doesn't cast the issue as not being about civil liberties.
If Bangor were truly "a community where the health of its kids doesn’t take a back seat to the bad habits of their parents," then it would have (and should have) banned smoking in homes when children are present.
Bangor clearly did let "the health of its kids take a back seat to the bad habits of their parents."
If the evidence that secondhand smoke is harmful to children "trumps all other arguments," then why isn't the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids calling for legislation that bans smoking around children - in the home as well as in cars?
I hate to have to say this, but this is really crap. The evidence that secondhand smoke is harmful to children does not trump all other arguments. If it did, then we should simply ban all smoking in the presence of children. Any organization that truly believes that the evidence that secondhand smoke is harmful to kids trumps all other arguments but does not call on smoking bans in the home with children is talking out of both sides of its mouth (something that is not new for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids).
Obviously, I am not arguing here that smoking should be banned in homes with children. It shouldn't. What I am pointing out is that the arguments being used to support car smoking bans to protect children's health are faulty. It is a lot of rhetoric, but very little substance.
I understand that there are anti-smoking groups which support car smoking bans in order to protect children from secondhand smoke exposure in cars. They are entitled to support such proposals. But don't give me all this crap about how such policies put the health of children above all other arguments. They don't. If you really want to talk that talk, then put up or shut up. Put up by calling on smoking bans in the home. Otherwise, cut out all the rhetoric about not letting the health of kids take a back seat to the habits of their parents.
Of course you're letting the health of kids take a back seat to the habits of their parents. Of course you're letting other arguments take precedence over the health effects of secondhand smoke on kids. Of course you're putting civil liberties above protection of children's health. You're doing all of these things because you apparently recognize that banning smoking in the home is not a justified intrusion into parental autonomy and individual freedom and privacy.
I, of course, would argue that the same concerns about intruding into parental autonomy and individual freedom and privacy hold for the car as well as the home. Others may somehow disagree and argue that there is a difference between a private car and a private home. I don't see the difference, but someone could advance the argument. But don't try to make people think that you are putting kids' health above all other concerns. You're not. In fact, you're ignoring the larger and more important concern - smoking in the home - and merely feeling good about yourselves by addressing a concern - smoking in cars - that creates merely transient exposure. The exposure in homes is far greater in duration and therefore far more significant than exposure in cars.
If you're not willing to walk the walk, then please don't talk the talk.
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