Like It or Not: Smoking Ban

Smoking is legal in Georgia, but even most smokers would admit it isn't good for them. Most wouldn't want their children to follow their example, and they've gotten used to laws that protect the public health by limiting where they can light up.

Well, the 2017 legislative session has only just begun, and lawmakers are considering a new smoking ban—one that would make it illegal for a parent to smoke in a vehicle with their child.

I can hear you saying to yourself, "Hey, that sounds reasonable." After all, a child has no choice but to ride with their parent and is in no position to tell Mom or Dad to put out that cigarette. An infant is in an even more vulnerable spot.

A poll about a similar proposal in Alabama found 70 percent of residents favored such a ban. And I get it:  Who wants to be against children's health? Not me, I assure you.

But, I am against creating laws for every circumstance, and this one seems like government overreach to me, and a dangerous precedent. What's next, telling parents they can't smoke inside their home if a child is present? If it's dangerous in a vehicle, then why not in the living room? Or should we just ban smoking anywhere near a child?

Here’s a hint: NO!

And then there's the matter of enforcement. Eight other states have some experience with this, with laws on the books that impose fines up to $500 and issue penalty points on drivers' licenses. But enforcement has been a mess, here and overseas.

In the U.K., police issued just one citation the entire first year its law was in place. They eventually decided it would be more effective to use the law to educate, not punish.

And here's another thing to consider. The definition of "abuse" has evolved in recent years beyond physical contact to include obesity, unhealthy diets, failing to vaccinate your children, and even allowing a sedentary lifestyle. Do we need a law requiring parents to get their kids off the couch?

It's a tough sell to say you agree with allowing a parent to do something that may later negatively impact their child's health. But, again, smoking is legal. It seems like we're heading toward a place where the law says you can kill yourself with cigarettes, but don't let your smoke touch anyone else, under any circumstances.

Perhaps the most honest government approach would be to outlaw smoking and live without the sales taxes. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

In the meantime, Georgia House Bill 18, The Smoke-Free Air Act, doesn't outline a clear or distinct punishment, so maybe Representative Sandra Scott, who filed the bill, is more interested in raising awareness than in getting it passed. Or maybe she does think government is the solution. In this case, I don't.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with Representative Scott. Here are her phone number and email address:

New laws are inevitable when lawmakers come back to the state capitol every year, but shouldn't we focus on ones that can actually be enforced?