Shaw: We must ban adults from smoking in cars with children present
Picture this. It's January in North Dakota, and the temperature is a bitter 20 degrees below zero. A car is driving along Interstate 94 and the windows are tightly shut. A six-month-old baby is strapped in a car seat on a back seat. Meanwhile, in...
Picture this. It's January in North Dakota, and the temperature is a bitter 20 degrees below zero. A car is driving along Interstate 94 and the windows are tightly shut. A six-month-old baby is strapped in a car seat on a back seat. Meanwhile, in the front seats...
- The parents of the baby are smoking cigarettes. Puff after puff. Cigarette after cigarette. The smoke has nowhere to go. It just fills up the car. The helpless baby is trapped. She can't help but breathe all that filthy smoke.
Well, Rep. Pam Anderson, D-Fargo, wants to make that a crime in North Dakota. If re-elected, she plans to introduce a bill that would ban adults from smoking in a car if children are present.
"The kids are defenseless," Anderson said. "We have to protect them against the dangerous poisons they are inhaling."
Anderson is spot-on in her assessment. Secondhand smoke is extremely dangerous. It contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds of those chemicals are toxic. Secondhand smoke can cause cancer, asthma, ear infections, respiratory infections (such as bronchitis and pneumonia) and sudden infant death syndrome. Secondhand smoke is especially dangerous for children, because they have small organs that are developing.
There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and there is no good reason for a defenseless baby to have to breathe it in. Anderson says she frequently sees small children stuck in cars where adults are smoking, and it breaks her heart.
"It makes no sense to put our children in car seats to protect them, and then we expose them to secondhand smoke," Anderson said. "We need to think of the safety of those children."
Anderson's idea for North Dakota is catching on around the rest of the country. There are now nine states that ban smoking in cars when children are present. They range from the blue states of California and Vermont to the red states of Arkansas and Louisiana.
Anderson has proven herself to be an effective advocate for health and public safety. She introduced the medical marijuana bill, which was defeated in the legislature, but overwhelmingly approved by North Dakota voters. Against tough odds, she was a leader in the Legislature passing a bill that requires medical providers in the state to notify women if they have dense breast tissue. I wouldn't bet against her this time.
Anderson's idea is a no-brainer. Smoking is already banned in airplanes, public buildings and bars. If that's the case, then it should be banned from motor vehicles with children in them. Us adults can usually find a way to avoid poisonous tobacco smoke, but a young child has no choice.
- Note to Donald Trump: Generally if you want to be friends with someone, it's not a good idea to call him short and fat.
Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV new director. He can be heard Fridays, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., on WDAY AM radio. Email email@example.com