My Two Cents: California mulls smoking ban in private vehicles

At the conclusion of a column I wrote in December about the Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health’s decision to impose a smoking ban on all businesses in the county, I somewhat sarcastically stated it was only a matter of time before the government attempted to ban smoking in private homes in order to protect children.

While that hasn’t come to pass, a step in that direction has been taken, as a bill in California is being considered in the state Assembly to allow police to stop vehicles if a minor appears to be exposed to smoke from a pipe, cigar, cigarette or “any other plant.” (I don’t doubt there is similar legislation pending in other states across the nation.)

Not surprisingly, the bill has the support of the American Lung Association, which points to research showing secondhand smoke can cause cancer, respiratory infections and asthma.

Democratic Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh, author of the bill, has referred to a 2001 survey by state health officials that found 29 percent of youth in the state had been exposed to secondhand smoke while riding in a vehicle.

I’m sure many of us – including me – can relate. It was not uncommon for my father to light up a cigarette while I was riding the car with him, and to be honest, I didn’t particularly like it.

What I like even less, however, is the thought of the government attempting to police personal behavior in private vehicles! I’d rather have the police more concerned with pulling over speeders or drunk drivers, instead of people smoking in their own cars with children.

Smoking around kids is definitely not something I advocate, but this proposed bill in California is a definite encroachment on constitutional freedoms and demonstrates the intentions of some politicians to eventually ban smoking everywhere.

I can only wonder if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – who has been criticized by anti-smoking groups for his well-publicized love of cigars – would sign such a bill.

“My Two Cents” is a weekly column where the author, a non-smoker who fears the current anti-smoking crusade is out of control, gets in his two cents worth in spite of the old saying that you only get a penny for your thoughts. Do you like what the editor has to say? Do you not like what the editor has to say? Feel free to e-mail comments, good or bad, to: