A bill that would ban smokers from lighting up in the car if there’s a minor inside is one step closer to becoming law in Alabama.
The state House passed HB 26 41-30 this week. The Senate votes on it next.
If it becomes law, the bill will make it illegal to smoke a tobacco product if anyone under 19 is in the car, whether the vehicle is moving or parked. Anyone caught breaking the law will be fined $100.
“We aren’t saying you can’t smoke, and we aren’t saying what to do with your body,” state Rep. Rolanda Hollis said. “We just want to look out more for the kids.”
Proposed Law Inspired By Date Night
The Democratic lawmaker, who introduced the bill, said she got the idea after her husband began smoking during a date night.
“If I can barely breathe, I’m sure children can barely breathe,” she said.
She began thinking of her 17-year-old son and all the other children who don’t have the same choice as an adult does. They can’t simply get out of a car if they want to, she said.
Her husband, she said, doesn’t smoke in the car anymore.
How Smoking Affects Children
There’s a growing body of evidence that children’s exposure to smoke increases their risk of heart disease as an adult.
Researchers in a study published in the journal Circulation found that simply having a parent who smoked but tried to limit their child’s exposure to their smoke increased a child’s risk of heart disease as an adult by nearly twice that of a child whose parents didn’t smoke at all.
Heart Disease Risk Increases 400 Percent
For kids whose parents smoked in front of them and didn’t really limit their exposure, their risk for heart disease was four times higher than for children of non-smokers.
Children are more susceptible to the harmful effects because their lungs are smaller, they breathe faster, and they have less-developed immune systems.
The British Lung Foundation says more than 80 percent of secondhand smoke contains cancer-causing toxins, which are more concentrated in the confines of a car.
States With Similar Laws
If the bill becomes law, Alabama will join several other states with similar laws. Among them are California, Maine, Oregon and Virginia. Puerto Rico has also passed a similar law.
Each state has a different age range for a minor. For example, the ages range from younger than 8 years old in states such as Vermont and Virginia all the way up to age 17 in California and Oregon.
Meanwhile in New York, Erie County (which includes the city of Buffalo) is wrestling with a similar law, while Rockland County and the city of Schenectady already have a ban in place.
Similar laws also exist in many countries, including the U.K., Australia and a number of jurisdictions in Canada.
Written by Mercedes Leguizamon and Saeed Ahmed for CNN.
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