We cringe when local, state or federal governments take a step into our homes or personal spaces and create laws that limit our actions in areas we expect privacy.
Sometimes, though, such action can indeed be for the greater good.
On Wednesday, it became illegal for adults in Oregon to smoke cigarettes inside their personally owned vehicles if there are children present. Lawmakers in Arkansas, California, Maine and Louisiana have passed similar legislation.
According to published reports, the smoker faces a $250 fine for a first infraction and a $500 for subsequent infractions. The violation is a secondary one, meaning police can cite a smoker only if the driver is pulled over for another offense.
On the surface, it might appear as if this is yet another intrusion by government on our personal lives. Upon further review, however, we can see the benefits of such a law. It helps keep our children healthy. In other words, it protects them when parents or caregivers aren’t making the choice to do so.
If a child grows up to smoke, that’s one thing. They should be free to do so. But a child should not suffer from the effects of secondhand smoke without knowing the consequences and making an informed decision to willingly suffer them.
According to cancer.org, at least 150,000 children are admitted to hospitals each year due to lower respiratory tract infections caused by breathing in their parent’s secondhand smoke — though, admittedly, these effects aren’t caused exclusively by parents while driving. Much of this, we presume, happens inside the confines of home as well.
Is that where the law is headed next? Perhaps. We’d prefer that parents choose on their own to make positive choices that will improve their children’s health. But we’re realistic enough to know that doesn’t always happen.