Bill may ban smoking in cars with children

By Kathleen Foody

Inspired by an experience in his local grocery store parking lot, Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, has introduced a bill that would prohibit smokers from lighting up in their car if children under the age of eight are also riding in it.

“The windows on a car were rolled up, and an adult in the car was puffing away on a cigarette, and a cloud of smoke hanging in the air,” Boland said. “I noticed a couple little heads that were in there too, and I began to think maybe we ought to do something.”

The bill would make it a class “C” misdemeanor to smoke in a car with young children, carrying a maximum penalty of a $1,500 fine and 30 days in jail. But Boland said he doesn’t believe the maximums will be commonly issued.

“I don’t think police are going to go around looking for people doing this, but it will likely be a situation where they will notice it after pulling someone over for speeding or running a red light,” he said.

Other states have passed, or are considering, similar laws.

A bill passed in the West Virginia State Senate prevents smoking with children under the age of 14 in the car, with California and Georgia considering similar bills.

The bill could prevent high taxes and insurance or healthcare costs, Boland said.

“If we can prevent illnesses that later will cost a lot more, it can help, and this is a good way to fight rising costs,” he said. “Whatever we can do in prevention is always much more cost effective than dealing with problems later on.”

Secondhand smoke is responsible for between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in infants and children under 18 months of age.

About 50 to 75 percent of children in the United States have detectable levels of the breakdown product of nicotine, or cotinine, in their blood.

Between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations, and between 1,900 to 2,700 sudden infant death syndrome deaths in the United States are caused by secondhand smoke annually, according to the American Lung Association.

“Ninety-nine percent of folks realize the common sense of this,” Boland said.

“There are some who either don’t care or might not know the effects of secondhand smoke and still smoke around their children. And we need to call them on it,” he added.