Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a bill banning smoking in cars with children under 18. But that’s not all. LA officials have reached an agreement with homeless advocates that will allow the homeless to sleep on sidewalks between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. (as long as they don’t block doorways, of course). That’s just beautiful. Tell kids that their (admittedly imperfect) parents are criminals if they happen to smoke a cigarette in the same car with them--but bums who use public sidewalks as urinals and toilets and personal campgrounds have the "right" to continue as they are. I wonder what would happen if the bums lit up? Well . . . I mean a cigarette . . . not crack pipes.
This kind of thinking demonstrates both a lack of intelligence and a lack of compassion. How? What kind of compassion is it to "allow" people to sleep on the street--when, clearly, a large number of these folks need to be institutionalized, medicated, or both? Another large percentage of them are in need of detox and addiction treatment. But we can’t force that on them . . . that would be a violation of their civil liberties! These people sleep in cardboard boxes and in their own filth. They deserve real compassion and the public deserves real relief from the hazards and burdens they impose. We don’t address the problem with these laws, we turn our heads (and our noses) the other way. We pretend to care when, really, we can’t be bothered.
As for the smoking parents . . . before people jump all over me--the answer is "Yes!" I have been stuck in a car with a smoking adult (and in sub-zero temperatures with the windows locked, no less) as a child. I know what that is like. It was quite annoying and, even, sometimes gave me the sniffles and burned by eyes (as I have an allergy to tobacco smoke). So yes, it was irritating. But then, so were many other of the bad habits of the adults around me. Thank God no one ever thought to criminalize any of them and prosecute my elders while I was a kid. There is a world of difference between irritating and abusing a child.
Would I have preferred my grandparents quit smoking? You bet. It would have been less irritating to me to drive with them and it might have kept my grandfather alive a decade longer. But would I have wanted to see my grandparents arrested or cited for smoking around me in order to "inspire" such a change? Of course not. Did their smoking do me any lasting harm? No. Did it do me any good? Probably. It’s one reason I don’t smoke.
Compassion for the smoker, of course, is something no one is allowed to consider. Unless there is a lawsuit against a tobacco company pending, no one talks about the smoker’s dependence on tobacco as anything deserving of
compassion money. But don’t smoking parents deserve at least as much compassion as the homeless? As a group, parents who do smoke certainly don’t love their children any less than those parents who don’t smoke. They might not be doing exactly the right thing by smoking in front of them . . . but do we really want to go there? What have you done in front of your kids that you shouldn’t have done? We all have such a shameful little list, don’t we? Well . . . you either have such a list, you have no conscience, or you’re lying.
My larger point is that both of these laws demonstrate a lack of compassion. They show that we want to kick the can down the road with the homeless problem; ignoring the good of the homeless and the good of the community they endanger. And they show that we want to enforce some strange new moral code that feigns concern for children when, in truth, it is concerned only with flexing the governmental muscle of some interest group. The lie that smoking bans in California have anything to do with "public health" is exposed in our negligence of the homeless problem. Our government in California is not concerned with exercising any control over the real and difficult public health issue of homelessness; it is concerned with pretending it is doing something about public health by exercising symbolic control over private health concerns like smoking in cars with children.