Saturday, April 7, 2007

One puff above the limit


One puff above the limit PEST easier, robbers. The cops have some new villains to track down. They're called smokers. Recently, police in Bangor, Maine, took on the job of ticketing people spotted puffing on cigarettes in their cars if children under l8 are on board.

Last year, Arkansas and Louisiana enacted similar bans, and many other states, including New Jersey. New York, California, Kansas, and Utah, are considering them. Some propose fines as high as U55500 (RM1,750) and jail time.

To be sure, public policies like advertising bans and smoke-free public places have been highly effective in reducing exposure to second-hand smoke. And the goal of these new laws is just as laud


But this particular anti-smoking campaign has more than libertarians concerned that government is

going too far in policing behaviour and trouncing privacy. Next, the health police could ticket parents

for buying children junk food or for letting them get too much sun at the beach. A more practical and

immediate concern however, may be whether enlisting the police to punish smokers will improve children's health.

Smoking is an ugly habit. It pollutes the air with toxic vapours that can be inhaled by innocent bystanders. This seems to explain why non smoking spouses of smokers face a small but increased

chance of lung cancer.

For children, as pointed out by the US surgeon general's 2006 report The Health Consequences of

Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, homes filled with smoke increase youngsters' risk of respiratory problems like bronchitis, pneumonia, and asthma attacks. The report also revealed that Mom's smoking has a greater negative effect than Dad's.

But it's not just smoking during pregnancy that can do damage, The lungs of infants and toddlers

are also vulnerable to passive smoke, a risk that trails off and disappears as children grow older and

move into their teens, What does not disappear, however, is a child's risk of becoming an active smoker, facing a greater chance of cancer and heart disease later on in life.

There are few data on smoking in cars per se. The danger is inferred because of smoke concentration in a contained space. You might also infer that people so into their cigarettes that they have to light up in the confines of a ear represent a pretty hard-core group of smokers.

Smoking them out of their cars will only drive these tobacco addicts to light up more in their kitchens and faSrnily rooms, out of Light or reach of the health police.

But even among those who have not yet become addicted, the threat of a ticket may not be a deterrent. Over the past 20 years, more than 30 states in the United States have enacted laws imposing hefty fines, court appearances, loss of driver's licenses, school suspensions, or other penalties on teenagers caught buying, possessing, or using tobacco.

But these penances haven't worked very well, Neither policy-makers nor police are enthusiastic

about punitive approaches, and the laws are often enforced in an erratic and seemingly selective


This suggests another problem for the smoking police: The odds are that the adults they will be singling out for smoking in cars with underage passengers will be disproportionately poor, uneducated,

and female, as today's smokers are tilted toward lower incomes and less formal schooling. And even

though more men smoke than women, more often than not, women will be the ones ferrying young children around in cars, They're called Morns. So be real. Will a fine or 30 days in jail improve the well-being of these often disadvantaged mothers and their children7

A former professor of mine used to preach that when she's caring for a child, be sure to "build up

Momma". Remember to tell her what a good job she's doing, and help her when she may be struggling. Momma is the one who bears the major responsibility for young children, day in and day out.

5be - no offense, Dads is the one who typically sets the tone for health behaviour in the home.

Yet young women are tailing up smoking in droves, and in what seems to be a curious fact of gender biology, once hooked it's harder for them to quit than men. Women respond differently to

smoking cessation programs and may also face more intense withdrawal s3rinpt ores..

Most parents who smoke want to give it up and sure don't want their kids to start. Morns may be

just the pressure point for Change. But don't punish them. Encourage, educate, and motivate them, and

provide program tailored to assist them in kicking their addiction. He p smokers become better

mothers. And let health experts, not cops walk the smoking beat, US News and World Report/Premium health News Services/TMSI

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