Wednesday, August 03, 2005

About Camel's Noses...
A measure is being mulled over in the New Jersey State legislature that would ban cigarette smoking in your private vehicle. If it wasn't bad enough that the Gestapo (State Troopers) in this country already can peek into you car to see if you'e wearing a seatbelt (for which you can be fined) or ask to search your vehicle at a traffic stop (just in case your passenger - grandma) is smuggling marijuana, now they have the ability to peek in to fine you for engaging in a legal activity.

There's a certain State Representative McKeon (party affiliation unknown) who has recently lost his father to emphysema. Naturally, he feels badly about it, and let's face it, it is a tragedy whenever someone dies (unless they're an Arab). In his grief and his desire to ensure that this "never happens again" Mr. McKeon has introduced his latest legislative gem.

Not being able to frame his argument in terms of the health or well-being of society (heck, 40 years of Sugeon General's warnings and medical research haven't stopped people from smoking) then the next best thing is make an argument about "public safety".

According to Mr. McKeon and his supporters, smoking while driving contributes to what are known as "driver distraction accidents". These are accidents caused when a driver is doing somehting other than paying attention to the road or traffic. This category of accidents runs the gamut from "driver was dialing cell phone" to "driver turned around to smack his kids" to "driver was receiving oral sex at the time of the crash". Lighting up, dropping your cigarette in your lap, fumbling for the ashtray, etc, might distract you enough to cause an accident.

However, research by the insurance industry has shown that smoking-related distractions account for less than 1% of all "driver distraction accidents". More people get involved in accidents changing CD's or fumbling with the radio than they do smoking.

In the end, the "driver distraction" argument will go nowhere as people already see this legislation for what it really is: government sticking it's camel's nose under every tent flap that it can. The same people who buy the 1% of all distraction accidents arguments are also the same people who want to hand out needles to heroin addicts or legalize prostitution. They say they're all for "solving a problem" when all they're really doing is attempting to extend their reach into previously off-limits places. There is no "smoking-related distraction" problem --- there's only nasty smokers who need to be stopped, even if that means we reach into the few sanctuaries they have left. Regardless of the fact that the activity they're engaged in is perfectly legal and has been forever. To these people, the cigarette is more of a danger than Islamonazis with access to anthrax.

Complete hogwash. Just more transparent and self-serving-I'm-the-avenging-angel-Mommy-and-Daddy-of-society claptrap. Mr. McKeon and his hangers on shouldn't be surprised when their camel gets his nose cut off. In fact, maybe I'll smoke Camels from now on.

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