Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Smoking in cars

Previously, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has rejected the idea of banning smoking in cars with children due to the slippery slope argument. A private members bill calling for a fine between $200 - $1000 for those caught smoking in a care with children is gaining support. McGuinty has changed his position to 'neutral' and he is willing to listen to what Ontarians have to say.

The current stigma against smokers is well deserved for all of the negative side effects both social and medical. The government should be commended for most of the steps taken to protect the general public from second hand smoke. Most responsible smokers are aware of the dangers and take steps to avoid exposing their children to second hand smoke.

The problem with this proposed legislation is it expands the powers of the state to control parenting decisions. The Ontario Medical Association states that second hand smoke is 23 times more concentrated then in a small room. The Ontario Lung Association says that enforcing such a law is no different than mandatory seat belt or car seat laws.

There is one major difference. Seat belts only protect motorists while they are in their vehicle. Smoking can take place anywhere and poses a danger to children even if they are not in a car. If a parent is subjecting a child to second hand smoke in a car, they are probably doing the same in the home. A car ban will not protect these children unless the state enforces non-smoking around children in the home. The slippery slope begins.

Where does the government draw the line for protecting children? Due to the health risks trans fats have started being banned from public schools. Will there eventually be legislation banning parents from feeding their children food with trans fats? Could parents who smoke or consume trans fats be declared unfit parents and have their children taken away? Once the government starts establishing the standards of 'acceptable risk' for children the possibilities of how far things can get out of hand are endless.

As long as cigarettes sales remain legal the government must limit how far they are willing to act in the interests of public safety. Non-smokers need to be able to be free to avoid the dangers of second hand smoke. Public education needs to continue to reduce smoking. The government choosing to micro manage family dynamics and which risks are acceptable for children is the first step to creating a police state.

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