Nadine Higgins: Getting steaming mad at smoking drivers
OPINION: As a woman in possession of a womb that has not yet produced a child, I'm very careful not to criticise other people's parenting.
But when I pulled up to the lights in my home town last summer and saw the adults in a neighbouring car were all merrily smoking away despite having a tiny wee baby cocooned in the back seat, that rule went out the window – along with a few terse words about the wisdom of their actions. A slew of profanities, threats and an attempt to run us off the road later and I concluded cigarette smoke was perhaps the least of that child's worries.
That child couldn't speak up, but when I was a kid and went to stay with my Dad, I did. I asked him not to smoke while I was in the car. He told me it was his car, I told him they were my lungs: he continued to smoke. What was I to do? I was the kid, he was the adult and the law was on his side.
The crazy thing is, 20-odd years later, it still is. The Government this week rejected the Health Select Committee's recommendation that smoking with children under 18 in the car be banned. They say present initiatives are sufficient – even if there appears to be no discernable "present initiatives".
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We decided more than a decade ago that it was no longer acceptable for bar and restaurant patrons to be subjected to passive smoke, so it's ludicrous the Government doesn't show the same concern for children's health. How can we have a ministry dedicated to vulnerable children but still not be willing to be their voice when they don't have one?
The cost of respiratory illnesses in New Zealand is put at $6 billion and rising and most of the countries we like to compare ourselves to have already implemented such a ban.
To me, it's a no-brainer to stop those apparently not in possession of a brain from filling kids' lungs with poison in a confined space.
Health Minister Nicky Wagner says "there's no point putting a law in place that's likely to be flouted". But on that basis, let's abolish the drinking age, because teenagers routinely flout that law. Let's legalise pot, let's ditch the speed limit and let's forget that ban on texting and driving because look around! People are flouting it at the lights and on the motorway left, right and centre.
Perhaps National is scared, late in its third term, of being labelled a "nanny state", but banning smoking in cars when kids are present is not on par with regulating the water pressure in your shower.
Whatever your reproductive status, in the absence of leadership from the Government, sticking your oar in and standing up for the health of other people's kids is not just the right thing to do, it's the only thing you can do.
- Sunday Star Times