Failing to Want to Quit

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Michael Siegel notes that Arkansas recently banned smoking in cars when any passengers are younger than 7 or weigh less than 60 pounds. The law, apparently the first of its kind in the country, prescribes a $25 fine for the offense and allows primary enforcement, which means smoking in the car while taking the kids to school is enough to get a driver pulled over.

Siegel, who supports government-imposed smoking bans in workplaces, notes that Arkansas still permits smoking in bars (but not in restaurants, unless they keep minors out), which he sees as inconsistent with the car rule. The two policies are arguably consistent, however, in that both ostensibly hinge on the presence of children.

Siegel is on firmer ground when he notes that the same child protection rationale that supports the car ban also would support a ban on smoking at home in the presence of children. Although Siegel believes secondhand smoke does pose a measurable risk to children, he does not think the danger is big enough to justify overriding the privacy and parental autonomy of adults:

As much as I hate to see children exposed to secondhand smoke in the home because of the potential health hazards, I simply believe that the privacy rights in the home outweigh the government's interest in regulating a lawful behavior that is merely a potential threat.

Regulating smoking in the home would open the door to a wide range of intrusions into personal privacy that people would, I think, find highly objectionable. I don't think we want to see regulations that require what parents must or must not feed their kids, how much physical activity their children must have, what their kids can or cannot watch on television, what movies children can watch, or whether or not parents are required to put sunscreen on their children when they go outside to play for an hour.

Siegel also notes that drivers who sign up for smoking cessation programs are exempt from fines under the Arkansas law, which makes little sense if the aim really is to protect children from secondhand smoke:

According to this law, as long as you desire to quit smoking and are willing to enter a smoking cessation program to demonstrate that, you are off the hook. You can smoke in your car as much as your heart desires….The police in Arkansas are now being told to turn their attention to the effort to ensure that smokers with young children want to quit smoking. The violation, the police are instructed, is not smoking in a car with kids, but failing to want to quit. In other words, this bill is really [more] about trying to alter lifestyle than it is about actually protecting the public's health.

NEXT: Bill Weld and Howard Stern: Brothers in Arms

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  1. Siegel is on firmer ground when he notes that the same child protection rationale that supports the car ban also would support a ban on smoking at home in the presence of children.

    Maybe not. IIRC there was a SCOTUS ruling a few years back that if a vehicle is on a public road, it and its contents and occupants are also considered to be “in public.” That was for the purposes of police searches and seizures, but if that precedent is out there I don’t see why it couldn’t be extended to smoking.

  2. “…but officer, you can’t arrest me! Sure, I was driving 120mph in the wrong lane, but, look here—I’ve been taking defensive driving courses! At least I’m trying to drive better!”

  3. Q: Would Verne Troyer be arrested for smoking in a car with himself in Arkansas?

  4. Not only is it designed to help people from making their own decisions, whether harmful or not, it also gives the cops another reason to randomly pull you over.

  5. of course, people smoking in their cars doesn’t bother me.

    i’d be happy if most people who smoke in their cars would just keep their cigarettes IN their cars.

    your habit, your responsibility to clean up after it.

    gotta love those flaming projectiles hurling toward your window at 70 mph!

  6. Not only is it designed to help people from making their own decisions, whether harmful or not, it also gives the cops another reason to randomly pull you over.

    That’s true. If kids that size are strapped in correctly, they’re almost impossible to see from outside the car. How would they know that a child is present unless the pulled over every person they saw smoking and checked?

    I wonder how police are supposed to know how old the children in the car are?

  7. younger than 7 or weigh less than 60 pounds

    I call ageism. Who’s looking out for pygmys?

  8. I wonder how police are supposed to know how old the children in the car are?

    Not to mention, are they bringing bathroom scales in the patrol cars to weigh any borderline cases?

    Of course, this could also create a perverse incentive for smokers to fatten up their kids so they pass 60 pounds by age 7. No doubt the nannies will attempt to close that loophole by regulating what < 7 year olds can eat.

  9. …regulating what < 7 year olds can eat. (I should know by now that <s and html don’t get along)

  10. Can anyone point me to some scientific, politically neutral information that sums up all the evidence we have regarding the harmfulness of second hand smoke? Thanks.

  11. How would they know that a child is present unless the pulled over every person they saw smoking and checked?

    You can be pretty sure that any black or mexican who’s breeding age will have a children in the car. I’m pretty sure that’s reason enough to pull them over. If you’re a Real American, you aren’t going to worry about policies like this.

  12. Can anyone point me to some scientific, politically neutral information that sums up all the evidence we have regarding the harmfulness of second hand smoke?

    FWIW

    I fear not politically neutral, but I do know that when the American Cancer society was asked to name three people who died from second hand smoke, they couldn’t.

    The problem with second hand smoke, is the effects are…wait for it…second hand. Unlike first hand smoke which science can reasonably link directly to lung cancers, the second hand smoke science is purely statistical in nature. It’s reasonable to assume that some people, somewhere may be harmed by second hand smoke, but like trying to attribute a drop in crime to abortion, it’s dubious to start putting numbers to it.

  13. Representative Bob Mathis = Hitler

  14. Representative Bob Mathis = Hitler

    Bill = Fanatical dimwit

  15. Representative Bob Mathis = Hitler

    Bill = Fanatical dimwit

    joe = arrogant asshat

  16. recent research:

    To measure exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, Dr. Yolton measured levels of cotinine in the children’s blood. Cotinine is a substance produced when nicotine is broken down by the body and can be measured in blood, urine, saliva and hair. It is considered the best available marker of environmental tobacco smoke exposure.

    Dr. Yolton found a relationship between cotinine levels and increases in acting out; increases in holding things in, often manifested by anxiety and depression; increases in behavior problems as rated by parents, and behavior and school problems as rated by teachers; and, decreases in the ability to adapt to behavior problems.

    A nugget for the H&Runners to disbelieve due to political bias…

  17. Your right to smoke ends where my lungs begin.

    And, to second the person posting about the speeding butt-flingers, my pet peeve is the people who throw them on the ground. Memo to smokers: the world is not your ashtray.

    And thanks, MainstreamMan, for posting that. I love Reason mag, except for this pesky tendency they all have to cling to this fantasy that cigarettes have all the health risks of celery.

  18. AA:

    Have you ever tried smoking celery?

  19. It is not reasonable to assume that since smoking is harmfull, second hand smoke must also be harmfull. As any toxicologist will tell you, dose makes the poison. Everything, and I do mean everything, in high enough concentrations will kill you. Likewise, everything, in small enough concentrations, is harmless.

    The tricky part is finding out where the dividing lines are.

    There have been numerous studies done on the affects of second hand smoke, and none have found any health affects.

  20. Dr. Yolton found a relationship between cotinine levels and increases in acting out; increases in holding things in, often manifested by anxiety and depression; increases in behavior problems as rated by parents, and behavior and school problems as rated by teachers; and, decreases in the ability to adapt to behavior problems.

    A nugget for the H&Runners to disbelieve due to political bias…

    So, nicotine – a stimulant – supposedly produces these negative effects that all too often lead to a diagnosis of ADD and the prescribed administration of stimulants? Maybe parents should just smoke Ritalin.

  21. The study about kids/ behavior was conducted on a small group of urban asthmatics– no “healthy” kids in the lot. The asthma itself (and the various levels of severity) would be a major confounder, among a long list of other such logical confounders. The press coverage offers no specifics but this one has all the earmarks of fudge and junk; its author appears to be riding a hobbyhorse.

    Somebody asked for reading material on the effects of secondhand smoke. I suggest the clickable Evidence file at http://www.forces.org, or a paper at http://www.nycclash.com/CaseAgainstBans/introduction.html. If that URL isn’t right try the clash site, click Library and you’ll find it.

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