Smoking in the car with children – should we legislate parenting?

So smoking in the car with children – it’s a no brainer right? Clearly we can’t have it, it’s not acceptable and anyone who does it should be subject to the criminal law.

Part of me can’t even believe there’s a debate about this subject. But the other part of me, the part that sits back and takes a moment, thinks that maybe those in disagreement have a point. It’s another debate which highlights how important it is that legislation is not born out of emotion.

Smoking in a car with children is hideous and those with an ounce of common sense know this. There is, however, an argument that when the state interferes to this extent we are taking parenting out of the realms of the home and handing squarely back to those in Whitehall. The idea of a Nanny State is nothing new it’s a concept bandied about for years but debates like this bring it to the forefront.

Most parents don’t smoke in the car but most is not all. Those children who fall outside this need protecting and yes, perhaps the parents need shaming into it. Now that using a mobile phone in the car is illegal I feel myself staring in outrage at fellow drivers who flout this – but do they really care?

Would those parents who feel smoking in the car is ok really care if they may, on the off chance, get stopped by the police. Sadly I don’t think so. Legislation does not a good parent make. Education is far more powerful and wide reaching without taking the emphasis away from the parents and handing it to Dave and his pals.

If I saw a mum or dad smoking in the car with their children it would make me feel hideously upset, it would hit at the heart of what we do as parents – to protect. But that, in a nutshell is an emotional response, my reaction is not the marker for legality. Are we going make it illegal to feed your children junk food? How about not holding hands when near a busy road?

I think, on balance, making it illegal is a good thing but I also think it’s a tightrope that’s getting ever so slightly more precarious the further we walk.  Education, education, education – to spout a somewhat forgotten political mantra – has to have many more far-reaching benefits than making parents criminals who will further resent the state and any intervention.

To those stupid parent I say: “Don’t smoke when your children are in the car – it’s crazy.” But I don’t suppose they will give a flying fuck. If you do this to your children it’s probably not the only area of parenting you’re struggling with and that’s the issue. Legislation puts a sticky plaster over this but education will help us address the why.

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