The night before his colleague and ex-chain smoker Mike Taibbi aired two stories on a new smoking ban in Bangor, Maine, “NBC Nightly News” senior producer Ed Deitch suggested he found it odd that there would be any opposition to the ordinance.
“The city council there has made news by banning smoking in cars when children are present, effective immediately. Bangor is the first city to do this,” Deitch wrote in a January 19 “Daily Nightly” blog post. “You don't have to be a parent (I am one) to realize how much sense this makes in terms of protecting our children from the dangers of second-hand smoke,” Deitch wrote.
“[I]t's the kids I worry most about, and it will be interesting so see whether other cities and states will now follow Bangor's lead and at least try to offer some level of protection for our most precious cargo, both on the road and off,” the news producer concluded his blog post.
For his part, reporter Mike Taibbi’s January 20 stories on “Today” and the “Nightly News” didn’t completely exclude criticism of the new regulation aimed at a personal responsibility issue. On his “Nightly News” story, Taibbi showed Dr. Bernadine Healy, formerly of the Red Cross and now health editor for U.S. News & World Report, complaining that “the last way you’re going to motivate and educate” smokers to quit would be “by giving them a $50 ticket” or “God forbid, put them in jail.”
“This is about health and medicine. It’s not about court and police and jails,” Healy said in a sound bite in Taibbi’s January 20 “Today” show story.
Yet even though it’s the police in Bangor who will be charged with enforcing the new law, Taibbi failed to seek opinion from a law enforcement officers’ union or professional organization.
Asked by the Business & Media Institute for a reaction to the ordinance, James Pasco of the Fraternal Order of Police told the Business & Media Institute that while his organization has no official position on the matter, that smoking bans are a matter of public health, something quite outside the expert of trained law enforcement.
Proposed car smoking bans “don’t have an effect on public safety, which would be a threshold issue for us” to take a position on, Pasco told BMI.
What’s more, while the laws may be well-intentioned, they don’t automatically make for an effective deterrent.
“They tend to be enforced more as ancillary to other stops,” Pasco said, comparing laws to ban smoking in cars with minor children to mandatory seat belt laws, which often are enforced in conjunction with another violation such as speeding or reckless driving.