(KCPW News) Every year since 2007, various Utah lawmakers have tried to ban smoking in cars when a child is present. And this year, that effort failed once again, as the House Transportation Committee voted down HB 89 this morning. Republican Representative Jim Nielson voted no because he felt it infringes on the rights of parents.
“Where does government stop becoming involved in our lives?” he argues. “For example a child riding in a convertible without sunscreen which can also cause cancer – at which point do we stop saying the government says you have to do this, as opposed to relying on people to use their judgment and to have their rights and parents and as individuals?”
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Representative Patrice Arent, says she’s trying to give a voice to the children who aren’t able to speak up for themselves.
“The secondhand smoke in a small confined place is so dangerous for children because of their developing lungs,” says Arent. “But these children, they’re captives in cars with this second hand smoke that damages their lungs, their hearts, leads to cancer. It’s just so dangerous for them.
Arent’s bill would have made smoking in a car with a child fifteen years old or younger a secondary offense. Offenders would have the choice of paying a $45 fine or enrolling in a smoking cessation class. She says she plans to sponsor the bill again in the future.
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Parents know best
I’m afraid that the proposal to ban smoking in cars occupied by children represents an
unwarranted intrusion into the privacy and autonomy of parenthood. The autonomy to
make one’s own decision about risks to subject a child to is not to be interfered with lightly.
It should only be done in cases where there is a substantial threat of severe harm
to the child. Interfering with parental autonomy in a case where there is only minor
risk involved is unwarranted.
Let me explain what I mean by substantial threat of severe harm and minor risk.
If an infant is riding in a car without a car seat, there is a substantial threat of severe harm should the car be involved in an accident. In fact, if the car is in any major accident, severe harm to the child is almost certain. Death is likely if the accident is severe. The connection between not being in the child restraint and suffering severe injury or death in an accident is direct, immediate, and definitive.
On the other hand, exposure to secondhand smoke in a car in most cases merely poses an increased risk of upper respiratory or middle ear infection. The likelihood, more often than not, is that the child will not suffer any harm. What is involved is only an elevation of risk for an ailment. There is no certainty of harm, nor is there any substantial threat of severe harm. The harm, if any occurs, is removed in time from the exposure and in most cases it is impossible to directly connect the exposure with the ailment. Thus, the connection is neither direct, immediate, nor definitive.
This difference is not subtle. In fact, it is so stark that it serves as the basis for deciding when society should interfere with parental autonomy regarding exposure of their own children to health risks. Generally, causing harm to children or putting them at substantial risk of severe, direct, immediate, and definitive harm is viewed as something for which there is a legitimate government interest in interfering with parental autonomy. Simply placing children at an increased risk of more minor health effects is not something for which there is a legitimate government interest in interfering with parental autonomy.
If we extended the argument of the supporters of this proposed legislation, then we would also have to support laws that regulate a wide range of parental activity that takes place in the private home which places children at increased risk of adverse health effects.
We would have to ban parents from smoking in the home. We would have to ban parents from drinking more than a drink or two at a time in the home. We would have to ban parents from using insecticides and pesticides. We would have to ban parents from allowing their children out in the sun without sunscreen. We would have to ban parents from allowing their children to ride giant roller coasters. We would have to ban parents from serving their children foods that contain trans-fats. We would have to ban parents from serving their children peanuts before age 3. We would have to ban parents from allowing their children to drink soda that contains sodium benzoate and citric acid.
Allowing their infants to play with walkers;
Allowing their children to watch more than four hours of television every day;
Failing to ensure that their children get adequate physical activity;
Owning a wood-burning stove;
Failing to filter water that contains trihalomethanes;
Not boiling their babies’’ bottles before serving them milk;
Not breastfeeding their infants;
Allowing their children to watch violent television programs;
Allowing their children to watch R-rated movies;
Serving alcohol at a party;
Allowing their children to drink alcohol; and
Failing to keep vitamins out of the reach of children.
One could easily argue that ‘If you love your children, [these are all things] you should learn not to do.’ That may or may not be true, but what is clear is that we should not interfere with parental autonomy by banning all of these things.
The question I find interesting is why a child advocate would single out smoking around one’s children as the sole example of a situation in which the government interferes with the autonomy of a parent to make decisions regarding the exposure of her children to a health risk. What is it about smoking that, among all of the myriad above health risks to which parents often expose their children, it is the one and only one that is chosen to be regulated?
I fear that the answer is that there is a moral stigma attached to smoking as opposed to these other risky parenting behaviors. And I also fear that it is the anti-smoking movement that has contributed to this moral stigma. What it ultimately comes down to, I’m afraid, is that the anti-smoking movement is starting to moralize. We are starting to try to dictate societal morals, rather than to stick to legitimate public health protection.
It’s a dangerous line that we’re crossing. Because once that line is crossed, there’s little assurance that the autonomy of parents to make decisions regarding raising their children can or will be adequately protected.
The anti-smokers commit flagrant scientific fraud by ignoring more than 50 studies which show that human papillomaviruses cause at least 1/4 of non-small cell lung cancers. Smokers and passive smokers are more likely to have been exposed to this virus for socioeconomic reasons. And the anti-smokers’ studies are all based on lifestyle questionnaires, so they’re cynically DESIGNED to blame tobacco for all those extra lung cancers that are really caused by HPV. And they commit the same type of fraud with every disease they blame on tobacco.
And, all their so-called “independent” reports were ring-led by the same guy, Jonathan M. Samet, including the Surgeon General Reports, the EPA report, the IARC report, and the ASHRAE report, and he’s now the chairman of the FDA Committee on Tobacco. He and his politically privileged clique exclude all the REAL scientists from their echo chamber. That’s how they make their reports “unanimous!”
For the government to commit fraud to deprive us of our liberties is automatically a violation of our Constitutional rights to the equal protection of the laws, just as much as if it purposely threw innocent people in prison. And for the government to spread lies about phony smoking dangers is terrorism, no different from calling in phony bomb threats.