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More States Banning Smoking in Cars to Protect Kids - Says Man Behind Growing Movement
Oregon is becoming the latest state – reportedly joining AR, CA, HI, LA, ME, MD, UT – in banning smoking when children are in a car because of the serious health dangers very high concentrations of secondhand tobacco smoke pose to their health.
By: Professor John Banzhaf, GWU Law School
That, in turn, grew out an earlier movement to ban smoking in cars when foster children are present – with such restrictions now in effect in at least 17 states – says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, whose legal petitions led to the bans in cars (and often in homes) protecting foster children.
Smoking in cars when foster children are being transported is prohibited in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming.
In addition, Banzhaf was also successful in helping to get court orders issued in the great majority of states to prohibit smoking in cars or dwellings when necessary to protect children involved in divorce and custody disputes, an earlier movement which has been growing very quietly for many years.
"The bans on smoking around children involved in custody disputes led naturally to bans on smoking around foster kids, which then led in turn to bans on smoking in cars to protect all children, he says.
Concentrations of secondhand tobacco smoke in a car, even with the windows open, can quickly rise to deadly levels, says Banzhaf, and as shown in this dramatic video: http://vimeo.com/
That's one reason why more than a dozen additional states are considering, or are likely to consider, similar bans on smoking in cars when children are present.
In many states we ban smoking in bars so that adults will not be exposed even to a whiff of smoke, but we provide no protection whatsoever for millions of children who are daily strapped into rolling smokehouses, argues Banzhaf. That's exactly backwards, because children are for more vulnerable to tobacco smoke pollution and, unlike adults who can avoid bars or leave if they are bothered by the smoke, children have no choice but to suffer, and no one will heed their cries.
Banzhaf notes that laws already require parents to protect their children by buckling them into expensive safety seats, locating them only on the rear seat, refraining from watching TV or having an open bottle of liquor in the car, and other requirements far more bothersome that simply not smoking.
He also notes that we have accepted laws which require adults to buckle up – a requirement which is even more intrusive, especially since it aimed at protecting adults from their own carelessness rather than protecting children from health risks imposed by their parents.
Indeed, as the New York Times has reported, parental smoking kills thousands of children every year, leading some to say that it is the most prevalent and deadly form of child abuse.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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