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Dean of Students

Law to address secondhand smoke in cars

(Samantha Flory / Photographer) Kiara Jackson, freshman at Heartland Community College, smokes in her car with a child’s carseat in the back. Soon, if a minor is present, smoking in the car wil be illegal to reduce risks of secondhand smoke.

(Samantha Flory / Photographer)
Kiara Jackson, freshman at Heartland Community College, smokes in her car with a child’s carseat in the back. Soon, if a minor is present, smoking in the car wil be illegal to reduce risks of secondhand smoke.

The new year of 2014 has led to several new transportation laws for Illinois, and in the near future another law could hit the books for smokers.

Senate Bill 2659 was introduced as an amendment to the current vehicle code. This legislation would provide that any person cannot smoke in a motor vehicle containing a person under 18 years of age.

Smoking is defined as inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying a lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe, weed, plant, regulated narcotic or other combustible substance according to Senate Bill 2659.

“The Surgeon General’s 2006 report has determined that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” Kathy Drea, director of public policy at the American Lung Association, said.

“In a car you are in a small, confined space so air quality tests show that secondhand smoke in a car could be 50 times that of smoke in a bar.”

A minimum of 250 toxic chemicals can be attributed to secondhand smoke including about 50 carcinogens. Children breathe more rapidly than adults and this can result in children inhaling more harmful chemicals per pound of their weight than adults in the same amount of time.

Some illnesses attributed to children who experience secondhand smoke include sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), middle ear infection, severe asthma episodes, pneumonia, heart disease and lung cancer.

“Middle ear infections are the most common reason for childhood surgeries and childhood hearing loss,” Drea said.

As part of the legislation, police officers cannot pull over individuals based purely on a person smoking. The individual driving the vehicle must commit another offense first. At this point, an officer can issue a ticket to the driver for smoking with a minor.

In addition, the driver is the only individual who can be ticketed for smoking. A passenger cannot be fined.

The ticket can run as high as $100.

The concept of not pulling over every smoker is part of the purpose of the bill.

“You can tell the difference between having a law and not having a law,” Drea said. “We are asking for compliance. The purpose of the bill is not to give tickets to people. We just want people to think about when they are going to smoke in a car with children.”

Drea is working with Senate Bill 2202 as well which hopes to prohibit smoking on all campuses in Illinois on university properties.

Senate Bill 2659 regarding smoking passed the Senate and the House Higher Education Committee on Feb. 19. Currently, the American Lung Association along with members of Congress are talking with the Illinois House of Representatives.

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