Moms Who Smoke in the Car Deserve to Be Punished

smoking in the carParents who light up cigarettes while driving with their kids might find themselves on the other end of a time-out if lawmakers have anything to say about it. Smoking laws on the table in at least two states would slap offenders with hefty fines. But while they aim to keep kids safe from secondhand smoke, many question whether the government should be involved in parenting parents.

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The proposed legislation is on the table in both New Mexico and Florida. In the first state, getting caught smoking with anyone under 18 in the car could earn you as much as a $500 fine. In the Sunshine State, the age limit would be 13, and the result would be a "non-moving violation."

Shouldn’t it be our obligation as parents to keep our kids safe? We’ve taken care to ensure our children’s safety while driving by passing strict car seat and seat belt laws over the past few decades. And there’s legislation in place to make parents think twice before they text or are drunk behind the wheel.

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This is not 1975.

A 2012 study in the journal Pediatrics concluded that being exposed to cigarette smoke in cars puts kids at risk for developing significant health care issues. Almost 60 percent of children living in the United States ages 3-11 are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s about 22 million kids. And since the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report, 2.5 million adults who were nonsmokers died because they breathed secondhand smoke.

Not only do we now know the dangers of letting kids bounce around the car untethered after dad’s had a couple of drinks, we also know that secondhand smoke poses serious health issues for children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to the CDC. Since the mid-'90s we've passed laws outlawing smoking in most public places -- including airplanes, restaurants, and offices -- and protecting adult nonsmokers nationwide from the more than 7,000 chemicals found in secondhand smoke.

Don’t kids have rights, too?

About 21 percent of US adults -- 45 million people -- continue to smoke despite the serious health risks and many of them are parents who willingly expose their children to secondhand smoke and disregard the warnings. Since common sense doesn’t seem to be in evidence, perhaps hitting those parents with hefty fines would be the necessary incentive. Seven states -- from California to Vermont -- have already passed legislation banning smoking while driving with children.

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Kids deserve to be protected from their parents' irresponsible actions just as we try to protect them from other types of neglect. Although many might argue that it’s governmental overreach and a potentially slippery slope, there are just no benefits to smoking. It’s bad for smokers and nonsmokers alike.

We’ve adapted to it being eliminated from our bars and restaurants, airplanes, and workplaces; smokers will eventually get used to not being able to light up while driving with their kids.

What do you think of this law?

 

Image © iStock.com/sestovic

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