I sat in the parking lot of Menard’s with the kids, while my husband ran in to pick up a few more bags of mulch. I watched as a nice looking family of five exited and loaded up their minivan. The dad buckled in the smallest of the three children and then sat in the driver’s seat. He started the van, cracked a few windows and lit a cigarette.
I found myself writhing with disdain and shaking my head.
People drive and smoke all the time and I understand it’s one of the only places left they can legally light up.
I don’t smoke and find the smell of it appalling, but I’ve also never suffered from any addiction and so sympathize with those struggling.
However, I do not have patience for adults who chose to smoke with a child in the car.
Of course, family members, especially children, are victimized by other parental addictions: alcoholism, gambling, over-eating to name a few of the obvious. As a counselor, I’ve seen first-hand the emotional damage caused from an alcoholic parent. A parent entrenched in any addiction takes a tremendous toll on the family unit and its ability to function healthfully.
Smoking is different. A child is trapped in a car and forced to inhale smoke.
Granted, a parent can drink and then drive with a child in the car, but it’s illegal. A parent can gamble away money for the utility bills, but the child’s immediate health isn’t at risk. I suppose a parent with a food addiction could harm their children by setting a poor example of balanced, nutritious eatin … but I digress.
GASP, Global Advisors Smoke-free Policy, published a report on May 3 stating their position “The right to privacy is an important tenet of the American way of life. But certainly, when children are harmed from exposure to the class A carcinogen secondhand smoke (SHS), then public health and safety take precedence over smoking around children. Smoke-free vehicles ensure that clean air is maintained within the vehicle, to fulfill a child’s need to breathe healthful, clean air.”
The document also identifies U.S. Jurisdictions that ban smoking in vehicles with children. The only states to sign it into law are Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine, and Utah. A few individual cities and counties in New Jersey, New York, and Indiana have enacted similar bans.
Seventeen states ban smoking when transporting foster children. Apparently, “lungs of the state” should be more protected than the lungs of children driving with a biological parent.
The University of Minnesota cites a study revealing only 15 percent of a cigarette’s smoke is inhaled by the smoker. This means the remaining 85 percent is dispersed into nearby air. Furthermore, a person enclosed in smoky space for little more than two hours has “smoked” the equivalent of four cigarettes.
Would you hand your 5-year-old a cigarette? Absolutely not.
If you are smoking in the car with him, you might as well have handed him a lighter and lit him up.
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