Smoking Prohibited with Minors in Vehicles
Children do not have a choice whether or not an adult smokes while driving a vehicle. According to Chest magazine, 4.8 million American children have been diagnosed with asthma. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta report that in 1993, 159,000 children under the age of fifteen were hospitalized for acute asthma, and 5,300 people died. The American Lung Association states that the annual health care cost for asthma is 12.6 billion dollars. “The value of reduced productivity due to loss of school days represented the largest single indirect cost related to asthma, approaching $1 billion.” The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease states that, “More than 10 million school days are missed annually due to asthma.” “Annually in America, there are approximately 10.4 million physician office visits for the treatment of asthma. Approximately one-third of those visits are for patients under the age of 18,” as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.
This law would be authorized by the United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3…”To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” This Commerce Clause would pertain to those individuals traveling in vehicles. Added authorization is found in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 18. The necessary and proper clause would allow for the novel idea of regulating individual habits inside privately owned vehicles. In American Government and Politics
Today, this clause “has allowed Congress to adapt the government to changing needs and times”.
Enforcement of this law would be delegated to each state. Each state’s Department of Transportation, Highway/State Patrol would also then enforce this law. Local law/County Sheriff offices would give their support likewise.
As stated in the Children’s Asthma Relief Act of 1999, “Asthma is often a chronic illness that is treatable with ambulatory care, but over 43 percent of its economic impact comes from use of emergency rooms, hospitalization, and death. Children aged 0 to 5 years who are exposed to maternal smoking are 201 times more likely to develop asthma compared with those free from exposure.”
Children do not get to choose with whom they ride, nor what the driver of the vehicle does. There have been several public movements to bring to light the plight of child neglect and abuse. There has been no movement to inform the American public about a child’s right to breathe fresh air in a vehicle. Smoking in a car can be considered as harmful as blowing smoke directly into a child’s face in a tiny room. As a parent of a child with asthma, I feel that more parents should consider their child’s health and wellbeing. As a smoker, I also realize that many parents may not realize the amount of harm they are inflicting upon their child. Smoking near children, or even in the same room, should be considered as abusive as allowing a minor to consume alcohol. The right to smoke, harmful as it may be, is still only an individual right. The act of polluting a child’s lungs is not a right, and should be considered a crime.
There are currently no laws regulating smoking in privately owned vehicles. There are laws that ban smoking in federal buildings, workplaces, and public restaurants.
Children would benefit tremendously by being able to breathe clean air inside the confines of a vehicle. Parents would benefit with possibly lower health costs, as would their health insurance agencies. Business and industry would benefit by decreasing the productivity loss due to health problems. The interpretation of the Commerce Clause would be affected by the regulation of the practice of smoking in a privately owned vehicle.