State should not try to control parenting

Published Mar 12, 2013 at 05:00AM

Oregon lawmakers are working on at least two bills that would take decision-making out of parents’ hands and put it in the state’s lap. Both are well intentioned, but good intentions are not enough to make good law.

House Bill 2896, which was approved by members of the Oregon House by a 38-18 margin last week, would make it illegal to allow children under the age of 18 to use a tanning bed unless ordered to do so by a doctor. There are no penalties associated with the measure.

No one, we suspect, would argue that allowing a child to toast in a tanning bed is good practice. The beds expose users to an especially dangerous form of ultraviolet light and risk of melanoma — the deadliest skin cancer .

A second measure, Senate Bill 444, would make it illegal to smoke in a vehicle if a child under the age of 18 also were in the vehicle. While police would not be able to pull someone over for smoking with kids in the car, a person could be cited if he had been stopped for another reason.

Again, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that secondhand smoke is bad for kids. It increases the likelihood of ear infections, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome, among other things, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Meanwhile, exposure is concentrated inside the confines of a closed car.

Yet as bad as tanning and secondhand smoke are for children, it really isn’t the state’s job to prohibit the practices. It could, reasonably, set limits on teen tanners by requiring them to get a parent’s permission. As for the smoking ban, it’s pretty much unenforceable. A better way to reduce the problem is to ensure that parents and others understand the dangers of the practice.