Saturday, February 17, 2007

Please tell the truth.

The Herald-Times reported on Wednesday that legislation endorsed by a committee in the Indiana House of Representatives would criminalize "smoking in passenger vehicles carrying children under age 13".

I've ranted about "Nanny State" legislation before, but I see some merits to this proposal. I don't think anyone opposes laws that make child abuse illegal. Children are too often removed from homes where they are beaten or neglected by their parents. We see these sad stories in the media far too frequently.

The question is where you draw the line and at what point government needs to step in to protect the welfare of children. An automobile is an enclosed area. Secondhand smoke has negative long-term health effects and in the short term is a significant irritant. Children would be especially vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke.

I've said for a long time that it makes far more sense to prohibit parents from smoking around their children than to ban smoking in "public places". Customers of establishments that allow smoking are free to go elsewhere, end employees of those businesses are free to seek other work. Children, however, are a captive audience to a smoking parent.

Reasonable people can debate the merits of Representative Brown's proposal in a civilized manner. My main problem with this legislation is the dishonest way that Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary) promoting it. Following is an e-mail I sent to Representative Brown:

----Original Message Follows----
From: Scott Tibbs
Subject: Smoking in automobiles with children under 13
Date: Sat, 17 Feb 2007 06:09:45 -0800 (PST)

Representative Brown:

My local newspaper carried the following statement earlier this week regarding your proposal to ban smoking in passenger vehicles carrying children under age 13:

Under the House bill, police could not pull over a motorist solely because someone was smoking with children in the car. The initial stop would have to be based on a suspected offense such as speeding.

The offense would be an infraction carrying a $25 fine for the first offense and $100 for any subsequent violations.

Whether your legislation is a good idea or not is something that reasonable people can debate. I fund it disappointing, however, that you would be so dishonest in the way you are promoting your bill.

I'm sure you know that the law mandating seat belt use did not allow the lack of a seat belt to be a primary reason for stopping someone. The Legislature modified this later, and now police actually set up in the street to slow down traffic so they can see if people are wearing seat belts. This is funded by state government with the Operation Pullover program.

The same thing will happen with the smoking ban, if it passes the State Legislature and is signed into law by Governor Daniels. It will not be a primary reason to stop someone, but will eventually be expanded to be a primary reason for the police to pull someone over. You know this as well as I do.

This is why so many average citizens do not trust politicians, Representative Brown. If you truly believe restriction on smoking is a good idea, then please be honest and admit that this will be a primary reason for police to stop a vehicle and issue a ticket to the driver and amend your proposal to reflect that.

Dishonestly trying to sneak your true agenda through incrementally does a disservice to the people of Indiana, your constituents, and to your fellow elected officials. I urge you to publicly reveal your true agenda and apologize for lying to the people of Indiana.