Ontario should become the first province to ban smoking
in cars that contain young passengers, health advocates said
Thursday as they rallied around a private member's bill that would
outlaw the practice, which critics liken to child abuse.
Although Premier Dalton McGuinty has said such a ban would be a
dangerously slippery slope, health activists say the likelihood of
children developing cancer, asthma and heart problems is good enough
reason to force people to butt out after they buckle up.
``Second-hand smoke is a killer,'' said Rocco Rossi, CEO of the
Heart and Stroke Foundation. ``Therefore we should be protecting our
children from it.''
``We already regulate in the car _ we require seatbelts and child
seats to protect our children. We're not breaking new ground. We're
not going down a slippery slope, because the state is already in the
Jurisdictions in the United States, Australia and the town of
Wolfville, N.S., have all banned smoking in cars where children are
present. In British Columbia and Nova Scotia, opposition politicians
have tabled private member's bills recently that would also ban the
practice across the province.
The private member's legislation introduced Thursday by Liberal
David Orazietti faces a steep battle, since such bills rarely become
law unless they are adopted by the government.
If the bill did become law, Orazietti said it would allow a
police officer to pull over anyone smoking in a car with kids and
fine them between $200 to $1,000.
``This is a reasonable step to take,'' Orazietti said. ``It's a
responsible step to take. We've got an obligation to protect
children and youth.''
Health Promotion Minister Margarett Best said Ontario already has
one of Canada's toughest tobacco laws, which ban smoking in bars,
restaurants and workplaces. But she was noncommittal about whether
the province would support the latest proposal.
``I expect that parents will take responsibility for those kinds
of decisions relating to their children and that's the direction I
am going in at this point,'' Best said.
But Michael Perley of the Ontario Coalition for Action on Tobacco
said the province already has all kinds of other laws protecting
children from abuse, so a ban on smoking in cars with kids should be
``These are very young people who are not in a position, in that
environment, to do anything to protect themselves,'' Perley said.
``They can't stand up and step out of the car at 60 miles an
hour. The youngest ones aren't even in a position to know that
anything bad is being done to them.''
Health experts say second-hand smoke is extremely detrimental to
a child's health _ particularly in a car. Cynthia Callard, executive
director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, said smoking one
cigarette in a car is worse for a child's health than taking them
into the smokiest bar.
The exposure can cause a whole host of illnesses, from ear
infections to cancer, she said.
``Parents do not have a blanket right to harm their children, and
putting a child in a car with smoke is certainly harming the
child,'' said Callard, adding areas that have brought in a ban have
seen people voluntarily obey the law.
The government's reluctance to adopt a ban seems to say that the
Liberals are more concerned about interfering with parents that they
are about the health of children, she added.
But Arminda Mota, spokesperson for the industry-funded smokers'
rights organization mychoice.ca, said such legislation is an
infringement on the rights of parents. No one recommends smoking in
a car with kids in the back seat, Mota said.
``But common sense cannot be legislated,'' she said. ``Tobacco
control has gone too far.''
Irene Gallagher, with the Ontario division of the Canadian Cancer
Society, said it would be nice if parents voluntarily refrained from
smoking around their kids or kicked the habit altogether.
``We feel that when they buckle up, they should butt out,'' she
said. ``They should be thinking about the effects of second-hand
But until that happens, Gallagher said children need to be
protected by law.