Jail for Smoking With Children in the Car

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North Platte, Nebraska, Police Chief Martin Gutschenritter wants to arrest parents who smoke in the car when their kids are with them for child abuse, a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Gutschenritter calls smoking around kids "the most insidious form of child abuse," citing Surgeon General Richard Carmona's recent report on secondhand smoke. "If you look at the state statute regarding child abuse, and if you look at the surgeon general's report, we believe that it's a clear violation," he says. "The fact that the injury isn't immediate, we feel is irrelevant." Maverick anti-smoking activist Michael Siegel comments:

Do you mean to tell me that to prevent the mere risk of some ear infections and respiratory infections, the Lincoln County Tobacco Coalition is willing to support the imprisonment of parents, removing them from their kids for a period of up to one year? You can't be serious. It is far more devastating, to be sure, for children to have a parent removed from them, than for the child to be at increased potential risk of an ear or upper respiratory infection.

It's preposterous that a parent who fails to buckle up their child in a car is punished with just a $25 fine, but smoking in that same car may soon result in a $1,000 fine and possible imprisonment. Failing to buckle a child in a seat belt will almost certainly result in severe harm in the case of a major car accident. And it could result in the death of the child. But in most cases, smoking in the car does nothing more than slightly increase the risk of minor health problems like ear and upper respiratory infections.

In Arkansas, which this year banned smoking in a vehicle occupied by small children, the penalty is a $25 fine (waived if the offender agrees to enter a smoking cessation program–rather illogically, as Siegel pointed out), a policy that seems almost reasonable next to Gutschenritter's incipient crusade.

[Thanks to Linda Stewart for the tip.]

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  1. I read a food piece about this. This is a pro-life stunt and the left is falling for it. You libers may be the answer here.

    JMJ

  2. I’d like to believe that at some point people are goint to revolt about things like this – but for some reason I just don’t have that kind of faith in my fellow americans.

    On a side note (completely unrelated) did anyone else notice Ron Paul’s call for impeachment?

  3. I read a good piece about this. This is a pro-life stunt and the left is falling for it. You libers may be the answer here.

    JMJ

  4. I read a good piece about this. This is a pro-life stunt and the left is falling for it. You libers may be the answer here.

    JMJ

  5. Chicago Tom – is Ron Paul against NAFTA? That somewhat surprises me.

  6. Jersey! I missed you.

  7. Tobacco is an antidepressant

  8. Holy hell, is second hand smoke the new meth? Next car that pulls up next to me at a stoplight with a driver blowing his smoke out the window and I’m gonna call 911 and report him for assault, battery and making tobbacoistic threats.

  9. I’d actually support this law, provided it extended penalties to parents who listen to country music or Dr. Laura when there are children present.

  10. I had no idea Ron Paul was a peach mint.

    The fact that he would announce such a thing publicly is also a surprise.

  11. Jersey, I think your first post was more accurate:” a food piece.” You probably stuffed your neck with it.

  12. Chicago Tom – is Ron Paul against NAFTA? That somewhat surprises me.

    I don’t think he is against NAFTA per se…I think he is just commenting on the risks of all these international organizations — My reading was that NAFTA was just helping empower this one world / one government agenda.

  13. I wonder what would happen if the government found out that you let your kid fly on SMINTAIR airlines?

  14. Smoking around kids is “the most insidious form of child abuse,”. That’s why after I rape and beat my children, I always go OUTSIDE with my cigar.

  15. The ultimate irony: being in a moving car is FAR more dangerous being around a smoker.

    All judges who cannot understand statistics should be removed from the bench immediately.

  16. All judges who cannot understand statistics should be removed from the bench immediately.

    So we keep Posner and… ?

  17. I wonder what it is that makes Michael Siegel such a principled activist. I’m not being sarcastic; from everything I’ve read here, he seems to feel that smoking is a societal ill that should be lobbied against, but also believes that truth and freedom are more important. (Or at least more efficacious.)

    And that’s great – I just wonder how he turned out that way!

  18. Gutschenritter calls smoking around kids “the most insidious form of child abuse,”

    Chief Gutschenritter does’t have much of an imagination.

  19. Linda Stewart should be put in jail for egging Sullum on with this nonsense. Who gives a flying fuck if some moron who smokes in a car occupied by small children gets harrassed by the law? Given the assault on civil liberties in the U.S, complaining about this trivial shit is like complaining that Hitler didn’t cover his mouth when he yawned. Get a brain, Sullum.

  20. So, if I get pulled over with the kids in the car, driver’s side window open 1″, cigarettes and lighter in the center console and a full ashtray; how does this work out for me? Can I be arrested on suspicion of violating this statute?

  21. My apologies. I meant to type “driver’s” rather than “driver’s” I must have hit the ‘ key instead.

  22. I hate those fucking squirrels. They just ruined my joke.

  23. It is far more devastating, to be sure, for children to have a parent removed from them, than for the child to be at increased potential risk of an ear or upper respiratory infection.

    Spot on. Particularly when you take into account the high percentage of residential child care facility houseparents who smoke.

  24. i think this penalty is really advisable. for child’s better growing, we all have to try our best to avoid every harm in life.

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