Senate Passes Prison Smoking Ban, Measure To Prohibit Smoking in Vehicles With Children
The Senate on Tuesday voted 23-6 to approve a bill (AB 384) that would prohibit state prison inmates and employees from using tobacco products in the facilities to help reduce state health care costs, the Los Angeles Times reports (Warren, Los Angeles Times, 8/25).
The legislation, sponsored by Assembly member Tim Leslie (R-Tahoe City), would prohibit tobacco products from being sold in prison canteens or sent to the state's 161,000 inmates. The ban also would apply to inmates at California Youth Authority facilities. Smoking is prohibited in eight of the state's 32 prisons that serve as medical facilities or as reception centers for incoming prisoners.
The health care budget for inmates increased to $975 million this year from $566 million in 2000. Leslie said that the bill could save the state as much as $280 million per year in smoking-related medical costs. If enacted, the bill would take effect Jan. 1, 2005, making California the 18th state to ban tobacco use in all prisons (California Healthline, 1/27).
Although the existing smoking bans have reduced the use of tobacco, "they also created a black market for cigarettes" in the prisons, the Times reports. The California Medical Association supported the measure, but the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker group, opposed it on grounds that "forcing inmates to quit cold turkey was inhumane," according to the Times. The bill now goes to the Assembly for final consideration (Los Angeles Times, 8/25).
In related news, the Senate on Tuesday voted 21-13 to approve a bill (AB 894) that would ban motorists from smoking cigarettes in vehicles when small children are present, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Sweeney, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/25).
Under the legislation, sponsored by Assembly member Marco Firebaugh (D-South Gate), motorists smoking a pipe, cigar or cigarette in vehicles with a child required to ride in a protective seat -- those who are younger than age six or weigh less than 60 pounds -- would receive a warning for a first offense and a $25 fine for subsequent violations. Other assessments and enhancements could cause the fine to reach as much as $116. Fines collected from the measure would be required to be used for public education programs about the effects of secondhand smoke. If enacted, the bill would take effect Jan. 1, 2006.
The original version of the measure (AB 2997) was defeated in May by an Assembly vote of 36-30, with 14 abstentions. Forty-one votes were needed to approve the bill. However, Firebaugh revived the legislation by attaching a revised version as an amendment to a bill (AB 1569) that had passed the Assembly as a child-care measure (California Healthline, 8/13).
According to the Union-Tribune, the proposal "appeared finished for the year" two weeks ago when the Senate Appropriations Committee held without a vote AB 1569 containing the measure. However, Sen. Dede Alpert (D-San Diego), who opposes the measure, allowed Firebaugh to amend another bill by inserting the smoking ban measure and move the bill directly to the Senate floor for a vote.
The measure now is scheduled to go to the Assembly Health Committee for consideration.
R.J. Reynolds spokesperson John Singleton said, "In our view, it is probably not a good idea for adults to smoke around small children. But from a legislative standpoint, this is something we think should be left up to adults and parents."
Firebaugh said, "These are the most vulnerable kids. They are strapped in to their car seats. They don't have the option of saying, 'Hey, Dad. I'm going to walk to preschool'" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/25).