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Should Smoking in Cars with Kids Be Banned?

A bill under consideration by the New York State Assembly would ban adults from smoking in a car with kids.

The idea is to stop parents from imposing their second-hand smoke on kids. In theory, it’s a good idea. But is the ban enforceable? And does it violate civil rights?

If the legislation passes, it would be illegal for occupants of a car to smoke if there are children in the car younger than 14, according to The New York Times.

Most smoking bans apply to workplaces and spots like bars and restaurants. But what about private spaces?

A handful of states, including Maine, Arkansas, Louisiana, and California, already have similar laws in place.

Studies have shown that children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more susceptible to diseases, including asthma. And unlike adults, they don’t have the option of avoiding it.

If the law passes, police officers would be able to cite someone for having a lit cigarette in a car with a child. New York’s law would carry a maximum fine of $100 fine. I figure if the astronomical price of cigarettes in New York doesn’t turn someone off smoking, this fine won’t make much of a difference.

Originally, the bill imposed penalties of possible jail time and up to a $500 fine, but lawmakers decided to make it an “educational bill more than a punitive bill,” said Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn, a Democrat from Flushing, Queens, who sponsored the Assembly bill. “We just want to give the kids a voice.”

It’s an important point to make, but perhaps the government would be better off funding  educational programs regarding secondhand smoke and children. Or maybe the money collected on fines will fund such a program.

Critics point out it would be nearly impossible to enforce the ban. Also, it’s a slippery slope regarding civil liberties. Once we allow the state to have a say over whether we can smoke in our own car, how long before they dictate smoking in homes with kids? Or serving our kids fattening foods?

Sure, it’s wrong to expose kids to second hand smoke, but should it be illegal? What do you think?

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shannonholman/

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