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Senators Try Again to Ban Smoking with Kids in Car

This year, Sen. Bobby A. Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, is sponsoring legislation that would impose a fine of $50 on anyone caught driving or riding with children under 8.

By Amber Larkins for Capital News Service

Sen. Jennie Forehand, D-Montgomery County, is passionate about Marylanders not smoking. She remembers coming to the Senate in 1979 and hiding all of the ashtrays under the radiator.

“I was the laughingstock of everybody, but I made the point,” Forehand said.

Last year, she proposed a ban on smoking in cars with young children, which passed in the Senate, but died in a House committee.

This year, Sen. Bobby A. Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, is sponsoring legislation that would impose a fine of $50 on anyone caught driving or riding with children under 8.

“A little kid in a baby seat doesn't have any option but to be there,” Zirkin said. “This is an important bill.

During a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, advocates from the Maryland Department of Mental Hygiene, Johns Hopkins University, the Legislative Resource Center and the Maryland Group Against Smokers, spoke in support of the bill.

John O'Hara, founder and president of the Maryland Group Against Smokers, said it's the duty of groups like his, and legislators, to support this kind of bill.

“Its much worse with children,” said O'Hara of secondhand smoke. “It's up to us to protect the people who can't protect themselves.”

But Bruce Bereano of the Maryland Association of Tobacco and Candy Wholesalers described the bill as a “Trojan Horse” on the slippery slope to making tobacco completely illegal.

“Either let adults smoke, or take it away completely,” Bereano said. “The presumption of this bill is that parents don't care about the health of their children.”

The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study in 2006 that found that secondhand smoke pollution in cars was higher than in similar studies of bars.

Smoking just half a cigarette in the car can result in pollutant levels up to 10 times the hazardous limit designated by the Environmental Protection Agency, even with the windows down, according to a 2007 study by Stanford University.

Four other states: California, Washington, Maine and Arkansas, have already banned smoking in cars with minors.

A bill that would ban smoking while in a car with children passed in the Virginia Senate a week ago. That bill would charge offenders $100 for smoking while driving with a child under 13.

David Evans February 11, 2013 at 12:34 PM
What a joke ! Like driving while using a cell phone or headlights on when your wipers are on. Just another law that will never get enforced. Are children eight and under going to have to carry an ID to prove their age? Whether you smoke or not eveyone would probably agree that for the health of the child you shouldn't smoke in the car but it's not the governments place to tell us that and impose fines.
Bob February 11, 2013 at 02:26 PM
What about a 9 year old?
Jewel Barlow February 12, 2013 at 03:46 PM
I think we need to send sharp messages to government officials that the government bodies at all levels need to focus on the most important things that cannot be done by small groups such as highways, reliable fire and rescue services, utilities that are monopolies, public education systems, ensuring that all contracts and regulations are handled within fiscally responsible budgets, etc. It is a misplacement of effort and a potential infringement on individual liberties for any government official, elected or otherwise, to spend government time on items like smoking in a car with any other person, child or adult, attempting to impose regulations on the types of food citizens choose to consume, etc. Officials should be eliminating unnecessary regulations and licensing that are primarily for the benefit of a select class or rent seekers while being detrimental to the majority of citizens rather than dreaming up ridiculous new laws like this one.

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