It’s a Shame This Is Necessary

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This week Oregon moved one step closer to joining many other states in effort to curb smoking in a car when children are present. Senate bill 444 passed the legislature and is now on the desk of Governor Kitzhaber, who has said he will sign it.  Summarizing, the bill will make smoking in a vehicle in which children are present a secondary offense–meaning the offender can only get cited if pulled over for another offense. The offender will be fined $250 for the first offense and $500 for all future offenses.

Shouldn’t this conduct be a no-brainer? The American Cancer Society wrote a good general article about second-hand smoke.  In it, they discuss the dangers caused by second-hand smoke, especially to children, and note that “Americans spend a great deal of time in cars, and if someone smokes there, the poisons can build up quickly. Again, this can be especially harmful to children.”  Shouldn’t parents care enough for their children not to expose them to such risks.  It has been how many years since we began to understand the dangers of second-hand smoke?  15? 20? However long, it is way too long for any among us to still be intentionally exposing our children to the dangers of second-hand smoke.  If a person chooses to smoke despite knowledge of the risks, that’s their business.  Go ahead, kill yourself. When someone does the same to kids, even their own kids, I’ve got a problem with that.

Although the bill passed the legislature, 15 fine men and women voted against the bill.  15! That’s absurd. Those voting against the bill voiced concerns of becoming the next “nanny state” and questioned the bill’s effectiveness. Nonsense. I tend to agree with Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, who voiced his disagreement with the nay-sayers. He reasoned the bill was a “nanny provision” not because it micro-manages the smokers, but because it protects children, just like nannies do. Clever.

In the end, I hate that we as a society are so careless, so selfish, and so inattentive to the dangers to which we expose others. I hate that our governments have to step in and govern behavior that, to me, seems nonsensical. Maybe we’ll reach a point when legislation such as this will no longer be necessary.  I doubt it.  After all, Oregon still makes it a crime to carry a child “on an external part of a motor vehicle.” It’s true.  Don’t do it.

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