Assembly Committee Approves Bill That Would Prohibit Smoking in Vehicles With Minors
A bill (AB 2997) under which motorists could have to pay fines for smoking in vehicles with children on board was "quietly passed" by the Assembly Transportation Committee last month and "could be difficult to stop if it begins to gather political momentum," the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Sweeney, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/4). The bill, sponsored by Assembly member Marco Firebaugh (D-South Gate), would prohibit smoking a pipe, cigar or cigarette in a car with a passenger who is younger than 18 years old (Bluth, Sacramento Bee, 4/28). Anyone violating the law would be subject to a $25 fine for the first offense and as much as $96 for repeat offenses. A 2001 Department of Health Services survey of more than 12,000 high school students found that 29% of respondents had been exposed to tobacco smoke in a vehicle within the previous week. Secondhand smoke can cause cancer, heart disease and intensify other respiratory conditions, such as asthma. In addition, it can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and affect speech and hearing by causing problems associated with fluid in the middle ear, according to Dr. Stephen Carson, a children's lung specialist in San Diego.
Jamie Drogin, a spokesperson for Philip Morris USA, said that the tobacco company is telling lawmakers it does not support the measure, saying, "Adults should avoid smoking around kids, but we don't think that, as a matter of private conduct, this is something that should be legislated" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/4). Assembly member Dennis Mountjoy (R-Monrovia) said the measure amounts to "big brother government." He added, "Government is going to raise our kids for us because parents don't know what's best? That's a very scary thought." If the legislation is approved, California would become the first state in the nation with a law that prohibits smoking inside private vehicles, according to the Bee. Other states have narrower laws, including Delaware, where smoking is prohibited in child health care or day care transportation, and Maine, where foster parents cannot smoke in their vehicles while their foster children are present. The Assembly Appropriations Committee is considering the bill. If approved there, it would be sent to the Assembly floor (Sacramento Bee, 4/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.