Tuesday, May 12, 2015

No smokes in the car with kiddies?

The Illinois Senate gave its consideration to a measure that I’m sure was bound to infuriate a certain segment of our society – making it a ticketable offense for someone to light up a cigarette in their own automobile if, by chance, they happen to have kids in the car with them.

Personally, I find it to be a noble goal. I can remember as a kid finding it rather disgusting to be around people who smoked tobacco products. It is a large part of the reason why I never took up the habit myself.

BUT I’M NOT sure how such a ban could ever be realistically enforced unless we’re willing to give police unlimited powers to start searching our cars. And it wouldn’t shock me to learn that many of those cops are smokers themselves.

So it shouldn’t be a shock that when the bill in question, sponsored by state Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, came up for a vote, it went down to an ignoble defeat.

A mere 8 state senators were in favor of the idea.

In my mind, I can hear the piercing whistle that some legislators used to make whenever a bill was on its way to defeat. That whistle intending to be a parody of the sound of bombs being dropped on the idea, thereby blowing it to smithereens.

SERIOUSLY, THE WAY a cop would have to enforce this would be to get up so close as to see if not only is someone smoking, but are there little children in the vehicle as well.

What it really means is that police would wind up having to pull over people based on their suspicions, and hope that they wind up catching enough people in the act of smoking-while-in-the-presence-of-children that they can get enough people to file charges against.

Considering that this likely would be a traffic offense of sorts, I doubt the fines would be sufficient enough to make all the time on the part of police officers worthwhile.

Then again, the fact that we’d have to put a certain amount of trust in police officers not to start pulling people over for whatever suspicions they have (then claim they suspected there was smoking taking place).

SHOULD IT REALLY then be a surprise that the state Senate’s black caucus was amongst the opponents?

State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, made it clear the caucus didn’t trust police enough to limit their searches for smokers with children to reasonable searches. They might wind up pulling over many black motorists, claiming there was a suspicion that tobacco products were somehow being inhaled.

Now I know some people don’t want to believe that anyone could legitimately not trust law enforcement. They’re going to be the ones who will now scream how ridiculous this all is.

But it may well be a sign of how big the gap is amongst certain people in our society in terms of trusting the police.

I REMEMBER ONE now-retired suburban police chief once telling me he seriously believed that the kind of people who went into law enforcement for a living are the elite of our society.

Others are quick to see a batch of thugs using their law enforcement authority to reinforce their own personal hang-ups.

The fact that this issue could even crop up is all the more reason we ought to be thankful that this particular piece of legislation (which likely will become an annual issue for the General Assembly to contemplate) didn’t go very far.

Because what’s the next step – we make it illegal for smokers to raise children?


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