Apparently not satisfied with protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke, ASH Ireland has expressed support for a total ban on smoking in cars in order to protect smokers themselves.
According to an article at IrishHealth, the chairperson of ASH Ireland indicated that the organization was supporting a ban on smoking in cars with children only as an interim measure; the ultimate goal is to ban smoking in all cars because it is such an unhealthy practice.
The article states: "ASH Ireland wants smoking to be banned in cars carrying children under 16 years of age. ...Dr Angie Brown, Chairperson of ASH Ireland said it would much prefer to have a total ban on smoking in cars as it is such an unhealthy practice. 'As an interim measure we have urged the Minister for Health to ban smoking in cars transporting children under 16 years of age.'"
"'We urge adults who transport children in cars not to smoke either while the children are in the cars or not. Children are unlikely to ask adults to stop smoking, so we must take this important decision out of their hands,' Dr Brown said."
The Rest of the Story
This is an important story because it is the first time I am aware of an anti-smoking group going on the record as supporting a ban on smoking in order to protect smokers from their own "unhealthy practice." Previously, every anti-smoking group I am aware of that has supported smoking bans has done so with the intent of protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke.
This represents a significant change in proposed policy because it would ask the government to ban smoking for purely paternalistic reasons. While I believe the government is generally justified in regulating behaviors such as smoking in order to protect nonsmokers from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, to start banning smoking because it is an unhealthy practice for smokers would be crossing a troublesome line.
After all, if we ban smoking in cars because it is unhealthy for smokers, then why not ban eating trans-fats since it is also an unhealthy practice? Why not ban all sorts of unhealthy behaviors?
There is also a tinge of hypocrisy in ASH Ireland's position. If smoking in cars is such an unhealthy practice that it has to be banned, then isn't smoking in one's home also an unhealthy practice that should be banned as well? People spend a lot more time in their homes than in their cars, so banning smoking in homes would seem to be a greater priority.
There is also inconsistency in ASH Ireland's argument that smoking needs to be banned in cars with children because we must take the important decision of exposing children to tobacco smoke out of the hands of parents. If it it true that "children are unlikely to ask adults to stop smoking, so we must take this important decision out of their hands," then why is it only true in cars, but not in homes. Children cannot ask adults to stop smoking in homes any more than they can do so in cars, so if the decision to expose their kids needs to be taken out of the hands of parents, doesn't it need to be taken out of their hands in their homes as well as in their cars?
Is it really health we are trying to protect, or is it more that we are bothered because we can see the smoking that occurs in cars. The smoking that we cannot see - in the home - does not appear to bother ASH Ireland enough to prompt the group to want to take the decision to expose kids to hazardous tobacco smoke out of the hands of parents. As long as we can't see parents exposing their kids to tobacco smoke, everything is OK.
The position of anti-smoking groups with respect to car smoking bans leads me to question what the true underlying motivation is here. Is it to protect the health of children by removing the leading source of their exposure to hazardous secondhand smoke? Or is it to get the smoking around kids out of our view, so that we can't see it and it doesn't bother us?
Presumably, it is the latter, not the former, because the primary source of exposure to hazardous secondhand smoke for children is the home.