North Platte, Nebraska, VS. Een anti-rokengroep in die staat pleit ervoor om ouders die in hun auto roken waar hun jonge kinderen bij zitten zwaar te beboeten ($1000) en eventueel een jaar in de gevangenis te zetten wegens kindermishandeling. Ter vergelijking: het niet in de gordel meevoeren van kinderen wordt daar beboet met een bedrag van $25.
Ongelooflijk, zegt Michael Siegel, dat ‘onze’ beweging zo ver wil gaan. De Rookpolitie lijkt nu echt een feit te worden. De minimale kans die kinderen door dit gedrag lopen op onschuldige kinderziektes als oorontsteking staat in geen verhouding tot de zekere schade die kinderen wordt aangedaan door hun hun ouders af te nemen.
Nebraska law defines child abuse as placing a minor child in a situation that endangers his or her life or physical or mental health. The act can be caused either knowingly, intentionally or negligently.
“If you look at the state statute regarding child abuse, and if you look at the Surgeon General’s report, we believe that it’s a clear violation,” Gutschenritter said. “The fact that the injury isn’t immediate, we feel is irrelevant.”
Child abuse is a Class I misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to one year in prison and/or a $1,000 fine. This would be considerably harsher than failing to buckle up a child in a vehicle – an offense punishable by a $25 fine.
“We decided to take this action simply because we feel it’s the right thing to do,” Gutschenritter said. “If law enforcement doesn’t come to the rescue and intervene, who will?”
Dr. Michael Siegel over deze ontwikkeling:
The anti-smoking movement is now literally supporting the “smoking police.” They want, quite literally, for the police to go around and arrest people for smoking in the presence of children. In this case, the Lincoln County Tobacco Coalition is supporting a measure that could well result in the imprisonment of adults who puff on a cigarette in a car with children present.
Do you mean to tell me that to prevent the mere risk of some ear infections and respiratory infections, the Lincoln County Tobacco Coalition is willing to support the imprisonment of parents, removing them from their kids for a period of up to one year? You can’t be serious. It is far more devastating, to be sure, for children to have a parent removed from them, than for the child to be at increased potential risk of an ear or upper respiratory infection.
It’s preposterous that a parent who fails to buckle up their child in a car is punished with just a $25 fine, but smoking in that same car may soon result in a $1,000 fine and possible imprisonment. Failing to buckle a child in a seat belt will almost certainly result in severe harm in the case of a major car accident. And it could result in the death of the child. But in most cases, smoking in the car does nothing more than slightly increase the risk of minor health problems like ear and upper respiratory infections.
It is not surprising to me that at least one police force has taken the bait set by a number of anti-smoking advocates and groups and supported treating smokers who smoke around children as child abusers. But it is still surprising to me that the tobacco control coalition would support such a proposal, rather than condemn it as representing an undue intrusion into privacy and as placing children at risk of real and inevitable harm by allowing their removal from their parents.
This does represent a dangerous intrusion into personal privacy and autonomy. It literally is the smoking police watching over us. It is the beginning of a slippery slope that leads the police right into our homes. There’s no real qualitative difference between a private car and a home. So if the police can start arresting me on the spot for smoking in my car with children inside, what is to stop them from starting to arrest me for smoking in my own home?
In fact, there is no justification for them not to do this, if smoking around children is child abuse. And there’s no justification for the Lincoln County Tobacco Coalition not to support the entrance of smoking police into the home.
I’ll be honest. When I used to hear smokers’ rights groups talking about “the smoking police,” I thought it was a profound exaggeration, that anti-smoking groups were not supporting anything of the sort, and that the whole argument was basically a bunch of crap. Unfortunately, I appear to have been quite wrong.
Not only is the prospect for the smoking police alive and well, but we in tobacco control are supporting this unwarranted intrusion into the privacy and autonomy of American citizens.
Believe me, we don’t want to go there. Not if we are to remain a free country. Not if we are to retain our autonomy as parents.
In public health, we shouldn’t be willing to trade definite harm to children for reducing merely the risk of disease. We in tobacco control better learn the difference between risk and harm, and quite quickly. Otherwise, we may end up causing irreparable harm to the very children who we claim we are trying to protect.