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County Commissioners should reject the new smoking ban

By Scott Tibbs, October 11, 2007

-------- Original Message --------
Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2007 04:52:28 -0700
From: tibbs1973@yahoo.com
Subject: New smoking ban
To: ikiesling@co.monroe.in.us; jpoling@co.monroe.in.us; pstoffer@alumni.indiana.edu

Mr. Stoffers, Ms. Poling and Ms. Kiesling,

I am writing in opposition to the proposal by the Monroe County Board of Health to ban smoking in private vehicles if a child 13 years of age or younger is in the vehicle. I was encouraged when Mayor Mark Kruzan stated on the October 5 AM 1370 Afternoon Edition that he opposes the new smoking ban proposal as too much of an increase of government police power over individuals. I encourage you to take the same position that Mayor Kruzan did.

It is somewhat of a relief that the Board of Health did not recommend that the smoking ban apply to anyone under the age of 18. In a situation like that, you could have an 18 year old college freshman driving her 17 year old roommate to the grocery store, and wind up being hit with a fine for smoking with a minor in the vehicle. I am sure you can see the absurdity of such a situation, but would police have the discretion to not issue a citation in this case?

As has been pointed out, some teens look older than they are and some look younger. What happens when a police officer sees a young looking 14-year-old in the back seat while the parent is smoking? How do you prove that the young looking 14-year-old actually is 14, and not 12? Can a police officer issue a citation anyway? How many parents are going to be encouraged to lie to the authorities if they have a teenager that is on the borderline? My concern is that this will create disrespect for law enforcement, creating an unnecessarily adversarial relationship between civilians and police.

What about the privacy of one's vehicle? One can make the argument that restaurants are "public places" (which I disagree with) but an automobile certainly is not. At what point does an investigation over whether an adult is using a legal product in his private vehicle while transporting a child who may or may not be 13 or younger become a violation of the driver's Fourth Amendment rights? And no, this is not the same as drinking and driving, which greatly increases the risk of an automobile accident that can kill or horrifically maim people in another vehicle.

If you were to vote for this law, I think you should articulate the full extent of where you believe government should be involved in our lives to protect us from ourselves or legislate how Monroe County residents we care for their children. Would you favor having police go into someone's home to investigate possible smoking? This is especially important for Ms. Kiesling and Ms. Poling, who are both up for re-election next year. Do you favor regulating how many times a child may consume fast food in a week or month? What about a government-mandated county exercise regimen? Some of these proposals may seem extreme now, but just thirty years ago no one would have considered banning smoking in private vehicles.

Make no mistake here. I am not defending smoking. I wish everyone who smokes would stop doing so immediately. I have urged friends and family to stop smoking, both for their own health and for the sake of their families. I do not understand why anyone would pick up that habit today, after all the information that has been published about how destructive smoking can be to one's body. But there are limits as to how far government should go in restricting the use of a legal substance by adults. I hope you see that this proposal is on the other side of that thick black line, and I am encouraged that you are approaching this with caution.