State Representative John Hinds wants to fine anyone smoking in a vehicle with a young child, but based on last week's vote, it doesn't seem like that will be happening any time soon.
Hines has been an advocate of child healthcare reform for years.
"We want to encourage children to have healthier lives, eat right, work out," said Hinds. "Enjoy and play more. It seems like a no-brainer to me.”
In 2017, Hinds filed House Bill 377, also known as the Mississippi Protection from Secondhand Smoke for Children Act. If passed, it would have made an adult caught smoking in a vehicle with a child under the age of six guilty of a misdemeanor, but the bill died in committee.
So he tried again this year with House Bill 132, but it also died in committee.
“Sometimes, people forget the oath that they took to come down here and improve Mississippi, to make Mississippi a better place,” added Hinds.
Sandra Shelson is the Executive Director for the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi and she explained why she thinks there wasn't greater support for the bill.
“The only reason that seems to make the most sense is that for whatever reason, the tobacco industry would be against something like this is because it would infringe on an individuals 'rights'," explained Shelson. "However, this isn’t about the adult's individual rights.”
Dr. Thomas Payne, of the ACT Center for Tobacco Treatment, Education and Research, also believes that legislation concerning the effects of secondhand smoke on children should be made a priority.
“I think the kind of laws to protect children, in this case kids specifically in the car environment, are a really, really good thing," said Payne. "Only good could come from this.”
Payne explained that children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke because of their smaller, developing organs.
“Brains that are developing are far more susceptible to damage when they are exposed to toxins,” said Payne.
Secondhand smoke has also been associated with many detrimental health effects in children, including asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and lower respirator infections.
“It’s been well known in the pediatric health literature that kids who are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke are coming in for ear infections, exacerbation of asthma and all the things that you mentioned, far more than other kids,” added Payne.
Aside from these risks, Payne says there is something else that parents should be aware of.
“We know that when children are exposed to cigarette smoke, both in terms of watching people smoke, as well as the effects of the nicotine on the brain in terms of sensitizing those pathways in the brain that relate to addiction, we make it more likely that those kids are ultimately going to use tobacco products as well,” explained Payne.
“Would you want your child to pick up a cigarette and smoke? I guarantee you there isn’t a mother alive that would say yes," said Payne. "Well I can tell you when your child is in the car with you, it is as if that child has put a cigarette to her or his mouth.”
“I’m not saying that all parents are bad parents," said Payne. "I’m saying that sometimes nicotine addiction circumvents critical thinking.”
According to the National Institute of Health, more than 150,00 children, younger than 18 months, in the United States, develop bronchitis and pneumonia as a result of secondhand smoke.
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