Keeping kids safe from second-hand smoke

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Editorial from The Advertiser

Is it mere coincidence that a new law prohibiting smoking in vehicles when persons younger than 19 are present comes into effect April 1, April Fool’s Day?

Of course, the fool in question depends on which side of the tobacco controversy you’re on.

Ardent smokers will surely think the fools are the ones who thought up what is in their opinion ridiculous legislation that tramples on the rights of individuals. On the other side, smoke-free advocates hail the move as a triumph and an essential stand in protecting youth from the dangers of second-hand tobacco smoke.

Controversial as the topic may be, public support banning smoking in motor vehicles carrying children has increased significantly over the past decade. Smoke Free Kings says a 2005 survey shows that 78 per cent of smokers and non-smokers support the ban.

Those opposed to the move say it’s another example of the government’s penchant for chipping away at the rights of smokers, but read our lips; this is not a violation of smokers’ rights.

The bylaw will protect children from being exposed to tobacco smoke in cars. It’s as simple as that. Any parent or adult who lacks the common sense to recognize the rightness of that needs such legislation.

Who hasn’t seen cars with the windows rolled shut while one, two or even three adults puff away with a small child or infant locked in amidst clouds of poisonous, cancer-causing smoke. And it happens a lot. According to Statistics Canada data, one in five children under the age of 12 are exposed to second-hand smoke in cars.

So when an amendment to the Smoke-free Places Act comes into effect April 1, we will recommend it. We applaud also the comments of Barry Barnet, Minister of Health Promotion and Protection, who said in a news release Friday that the legislation is another important step in protecting the health of all Nova Scotians. Children and young people are susceptible to the effects of second-hand smoke, especially in an enclosed space such as a car. 

Thanks to the lead taken by the Town of Wolfville, Nova Scotia is the first province in Canada to prohibit smoking in vehicles when minors are present. We should be proud of this, especially since Nova Scotia is more often known for a lack of such foresight. At this time, several other provinces are considering similar legislation.

We agree with those who say the amendment reinforces what the majority of Nova Scotians are already doing to protect the health of their children. For others, it may serve as an opportunity to learn about the health risks associated with second-hand smoke, including the fact that more than 4,000 chemicals can be found in second-hand smoke, including carbon monoxide, nickel, formaldehyde and arsenic; chemicals that can contribute to many illnesses including asthma, heart disease and sudden infant-death syndrome. 

In the end, if common sense fails to prevail, perhaps fear of fines will. The penalty for smoking in a car with young passengers is $394.50. In our opinion, that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Organizations: Statistics Canada

Geographic location: Nova Scotians, Nova Scotia, Wolfville Canada

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