Oregon lawmakers are at it again, prying into the lives of smokers and taking away their rights to puff away where they please. Senate Bill 2385 is currently being put through the motions so it can be passed.
Smoke and rearview mirrors
Oregon lawmakers are at it again, prying into the lives of smokers and taking away their rights to puff away where they please. Senate Bill 2385 is currently being put through the motions so it can be passed. And I fear that it will.
The bill will make it illegal to smoke in any vehicle that contains a person or persons under the age of 17. The penalty for such actions, if caught, would be a $90 fine for the first offense and up to $360 for a third. How folks may actually be caught for this offense is only one of the problems with this proposed law.
Now don’t get me wrong here. I acknowledge the negative effects of secondhand smoke and agree that children should be protected from smoke caused by cigarettes. What worries me is not what the law proposes, I don’t even own a car and I know the senators mean well.
What does worry me is the clear invasion of privacy. Passing this law would set a dangerous precedent for further legislation that pries into the private lives of citizens.
What also worries me is the whistle blowing mentality that the law promotes. In order to enforce a law of this kind, police would need the assistance of ordinary citizens to help them police these would be “poisoners of children.” There certainly aren’t enough police officers driving around with nothing better to do to catch everyone breaking this law.
This means that everyday citizens will be encouraged to phone 9-1-1 if and when they see an offender. I imagine the phone call would sound something like a younger sibling tattling to their parents that they saw their older brother or sister smoking. Then the police would have to hunt down the aforementioned car and pull them over, all based on the word of an ordinary citizen.
Also, looks can be deceiving. I cannot help but wonder how many cars holding young looking people over 16 would be pulled over and questioned unnecessarily.
What really bothers me about this law is the way it attempts to penetrate into the private sphere of a smoker’s life. The ban on workplace smoking was one thing—bars are a public space. So is someone’s car a public space or is it considered a private realm? I would answer yes to both instances.
It is public in the way that a driver shares the road with others and, in many cases, shares the car itself. It is private because it is an enclosed space that is, in most cases, the property of the individual driving the vehicle. In this way, banning smoking in vehicles is indeed a private intrusion.
I like to consider myself a rather conscientious smoker but let’s face it: some people are not. Some people think nothing of lighting up a cigarette with their car windows rolled up as they strap their child into a booster seat right next to them.
This law, as it stands right now, will not be a great deterrent to these people, as they really don’t care for others’ well being to begin with. But I feel that these people are few and harder to stop due to the difficulty of enforcing this law.
Lawmakers are treading on dangerous ground. I can feel my rights as a smoker and a citizen slipping away one by one. What will come next? No smoking in a private residence containing persons under the age of 17? No smoking within 20 feet of anyone under the age of 18? This is where we could be heading.
There are children out there being unfairly exposed to secondhand smoke but this silly attempt at mitigation is not the way to help them.