SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Vehicular Homicide
By Rob Holston


November 21, 2006
Tuesday AM

Ketchikan, Alaska - The state of Alaska issues drivers licenses to those who qualify to drive on state road systems. The state of Alaska issues licenses for vehicles to be driven upon the road systems of Alaska. Our state has enacted laws to protect people from each other in the form of traffic laws, of course, but also in "click-it-or-ticket" laws and child restraint laws. It is now time for our state to enact a law to protect all children within vehicles upon public and private properties within the borders of our state from the toxins of second hand smoke. It is time to enact a law that prohibits smoking in any vehicle where there are children present and recognizing such practice as a form of child abuse.

Besides the suggestion of this law being inflammatory and inspiring red-necked smokers throughout the state to clamor to their soap boxes and expound upon their rights to smoke in their own vehicles, I pray our lawmakers would decide in favor of the children of this state. Violators of this statute should pay a hefty fine, let's say equal to the amount they probably spend on their precious smokes over a year's time. That would be, in round figures, say $2,000. Maybe half of this amount should be contributed to the college fund of the children who suffer as victims of this crime. Some smokers may even be convinced to quit smoking entirely because of this law. If both man & wife smoke to the tune of $4,000 per year, over the course of raising a couple of kids, say 20 years by not smoking, that would be a savings for the family of $80,000. That's the second way that smokers victimize their children, by depleting the family budget for their own nicotine enhanced pleasures. But, I digress.

I began my professional teaching career back in the late seventies. I have no statistical data concerning the prevalence of lung disease amongst children at that time, but by virtue of my assignment I visited many, many classrooms and children with asthmatic conditions were extremely rare. Compare that to my most recent decade of classroom experience and the prevalence of children suffering from asthma has skyrocketed. Ask any teacher with 20 plus years experience and almost all will agree that asthma amongst children has increased dramatically over the past two to three decades.

Would I expect the lawmakers of our state to enact this law because of the anecdotal testimony of one person? Of course not. I expect that they will direct some minimum wage office underling to "google" SECOND HAND SMOKE and then print off six dozen or so reports on how second hand smoke effects children and then rely upon that testimony!

Now doubt the "responsible" smokers with children in the car will roll down their window to keep the children in the back seat safe. Not so fast. I recall the Venturi effect, a special case of Bernoulli's principle that will capture the polluted air and send it directly to the back seat where it will encircle the children there with cyclonic little toxic gas masks for them to breathe in. I have a vivid recollection of the Venturi effect involving a smoker on my charter fishing boat many years ago. May I digress futher?

We had just finished a day's sport fishing for Silvers and Halibut up around Ship Island. I had four fisherman and my deck hand on board. We put all the gear on the deck and I fired up the twin turbo diesels for the ride home, about a 40-minute run. I took the helm at the fly bridge of the Rock N' Rolin, our 28 foot vessel and soon we were rockin out at about 30 miles per hour in the relatively calm seas. I was in the fly bridge alone, the other five below in the enclosed cabin. The fly bridge is completely open and sits atop the cabin. The fresh air hit my face at 30 miles per hour when I stood up at the wheel to stretch my legs. Fifteen minutes into our run home I smelled the distinctive aroma of a freshly lit cigarette penetrating my nostrils. My young deckhand, trying to sneak a smoke from the head, located aft of my position and a full deck below was caught red handed because the Venturi effect captured that smoke and brought it to me.

Last week I read in an Associated Press article out of Los Angeles that Alaska Attorney General, David Marquez along with other states attorney generals made a formal plea to the motion picture industry to include non-smoking messages with their productions. Marquez thanked the Weinstein Company as the first company ".taking responsibility for protecting our children from the dangers of smoking." I'm sure we can count on him and his office for supporting this legislation to protect Alaska's children from the scourge of second hand smoke.

Any child in a vehicle, windows up or down, is a victim to second hand smoke when there is a smoker in the vehicle and this form of child abuse needs to be stopped. It is time that this state step up to the plate and pass the legislation necessary to protect our state's children from the harm of second hand vehicular smoke. The list of health conditions created or exacerbated by second hand smoke is exhaustive. Some of the effects of second hand smoke may not become apparent for many years to come. It is the state's responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Children in these circumstances need help and they need it now. Please support legislation to combat second hand vehicular smoke effecting children.


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Rob is a retired teacher and a resident of Ketchikan, Alaska. He is not a health care professional; however, he has an interest in health and fitness. You should contact your doctor regarding all health care issues and follow your doctor's advice.
Contact Rob at holston[at]

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