Guest Commentary

A proposed bill banning smoking in cars with minors deserves support

I don't consider myself to be an overly critical or judgmental person. However, I am very concerned and downright picky about the air I breathe. There are so many toxins polluting the ecosystem today that I can't control. But when it comes to something I can control, I do my darndest to make things livable.

Choosing not to deal with secondhand smoke is a right I refuse to budge on as an adult. I grew up in a house with a smoker, something that was totally out of my control. My mother used to be a habitual smoker. Starting her day with a cigarette and a cup of black coffee worked for her, but not for me. There was always a haze in the air, which wafted its way into my hair and my clothes. Outside of the house, I was further tormented, especially in the winter, with cigarette smoke while riding in an enclosed car.

With all of the above still holding true for minors worldwide, I'm glad to hear that Arizona state Rep. David Schapira, D-Tempe, has proposed making smoking in a vehicle with anyone 17 and younger a crime. His ban would have drivers incur fines of $50 or more per child.

Schapira has been very vocal. He has tried to get the issue on the table in prior years; however, it has been turned down. He's hopeful, however, that with the passing of the ban signed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that takes effect Jan 1, along with similar forms passed in Louisiana and Arkansas last year, Arizona residents will get on board.

Schapira said, as quoted by The Associated Press: "We already protect children from child abuse," and, "I think if you are smoking in a vehicle, to me, that is child abuse."

While many smokers and nonsmokers alike feel that keeping children free from secondhand smoke is a good thing, they also feel that governments getting legally involved is a form of intrusion.

However, for the sake of school-age children who don't want to go to class everyday with smoke-filled clothes and hair, smelling as if they had spent the night before at the local bar, I hope the ban passes.

Those younger than the age of 18 have so little say in what affects their health and lives. Rarely are they asked for their opinion on said matters. So it becomes incumbent upon the adults in their world to look out for their best interests. Both my Mom and Dad smoked while I was growing up, and I hated it. I would hide cigarettes from them, only to be threatened if they were not returned.

I didn't want to smoke them; I just wanted some clean, fresh air. Geesh.

If we look at all the diseases that are known to be aided from breathing in secondhand smoke, it's a no-brainer: If you must smoke, do it in privacy. It's kind of like masturbation. And unlike smoking, masturbation, to my knowledge, hasn't been known to kill.

I'd also like to offer encouragement to the children of parents who smoke: You get to make up your own mind on this one, kiddo. You don't have to follow in your parent's or parents' footsteps. Smoking is not as cool as it may be portrayed in some movies and videos. It really can take years off your life. If you have parents who are trying to stop, help them out. Let them know how proud you are that they are trying to quit. It isn't easy; that's why it's best not to start.

To Rep. Schapira: Be strong, bold and empowered in your efforts to get passed the ban on smoking in a vehicle with minors younger than the age of 18. There are many of us out here ready and willing to support your quest for healthier lives and cleaner air. Kudos.

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