Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Clean Air for Kids Campaign

Today is International Pipe Smoking Day, and I'd like to take a moment to discuss the Clean Air for Kids campaign. This is an initiative by the Lung Association of Canada, the aim of which is to make it illegal for people to smoke in cars when there are children present. This Canada-wide campaign is advertised on television all the time here in New Brunswick, and, I assume, elsewhere in Canada as well. The basic idea is that smoking in a car when children are present would become an offense punishable by a ticket and a fine.

I think this is a terrible idea. This is not to say that parents should be "free to choose" whether they want to expose their children to such hazards. On the contrary, they should be prevented from doing so by the filial bond , which is the strongest, oldest, and most culturally universal of all constraints on human behaviour. As far as the state is concerned, however, people not in public employ should be allowed to chain smoke all day in a car full of kids, puppies and emphysema victims if they want to. Protecting children from lung diseases caused by tobacco smoke is primarily a job for parents or other adults into whose care they have entrusted their children, and secondarily for education and the moral pressure of public opinion--never, in any case, for armed police, who should have better things to do with their time.

I'm proud to be a Canadian, and I support my country's decision to provide universal basic health care for its citizens, but this does not make my children wards of the state. If civil society can't be left to its own devices in relatively minor matters of conscience (after all, it's not like smokers are butting their cigarettes out in kids' eyes), then how can it be trusted with the task of democratic self-government?

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