I don't smoke. I never have. (Except for a few Cuban-style cigars. For those, I'll make an exception.)
I also don't like to be around people who are smoking. I don't want to breathe their exhaled tobacco fumes, and I don't want my clothes to reek of cigarettes after a night of socializing.
I don't let people smoke in my car, or my house.
And for the most part, this is the state of smoking in our society today. Those who smoke know they must take it outside, do it in their private space or keep it in a place reserved for smokers - Nevada casinos and the like, of course, being a notable exception.
Kingman Youth Coalition Beating Up Teen Tobacco deserves kudos for its anti-smoking and anti-litter campaign for Kingman's parks, and for being civically active. When I was in high school, I didn't even know where my town's City Hall was; the idea of meeting with council members or a police chief to pursue a policy goal never entered my mind.
But the group's latest proposal, while well intentioned, goes too far.
They plan to ask the Kingman City Council for a new ordinance that would make it a finable offense to smoke in a vehicle with minors in it. The prohibition would include traditional tobacco products and e-cigarettes, and it would be a secondary offense - that is, one could only be cited for it if pulled over for another reason first.
I agree that people shouldn't smoke in a car with kids in it - actually, people shouldn't smoke at all - but such an ordinance gets into private behavior inside private property, even though in this case the private property is traveling on public roads.
Traffic ordinances should deal with safety and responsibility in the operation of a motor vehicle. Speeding, DUI, unsafe lane changes - those are safety issues.
In fact, if this ordinance passes, a driver could be fined for smoking while driving with a kid, but not for texting while driving with their child, even though a texting, driving parent poses a greater immediate risk to the child and other drivers than a smoking one.
And though it's far-fetched, I'll bring up the slippery slope argument - if smoking in your car is bad for kids, isn't smoking at your dinner table just as dangerous? Should we also authorize police to issue citations if you're smoking a cigar in your living room while your kids watch TV or play video games?
Mohave County does have a smoking problem. The Arizona Department of Health Services reported that our county has the highest adult smoking rate in the state, with one-third of adults using tobacco regularly.
The solution is reducing the number of smokers: Fewer smokers, fewer kids exposed to smoke. If you're a smoker, you should quit. Here are some connections to help you get started:
Smoker's Helpline, ashline.org or (800) 556-6222
We'll see what the council does with the students' proposal. Hopefully, they realize that punitive policing is the wrong anti-smoking road to take.