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House bill would ban smoking in vehicles with kids inside

OLYMPIA —  If you are driving with a minor, lighting up could get expensive.

About a half-dozen states have already banned smoking in cars with kids. And Washington may be next.

cigaretteHouse Bill 2086 is trying to ban anyone from lighting a cigarette, a cigar or pipe while parked or driving if there is someone under 18 in the vehicle. A state House committee hearing was held on the legislation Tuesday.

“Toxic chemicals that are coming out of someone smoking in a car is the same as a firefighter fighting a forest fire for four to eight hours,” state Rep. Steve Bergquist, D-Renton, said.

Supporters of the bill say they want to protect the quarter-million Washington kids who live with smokers.

“Research shows that kids of smokers are twice as likely to become smokers themselves I am one of those children,” said Meagan Darrow, deputy director of the Lacey-based TOGETHER,  a positive youth development advocacy group.

“We also know it’s an asthma trigger; 10 percent of our kids in our state have asthma,” Paul Davis of the state Department of Health said.

Health officials are clearly on board, but some lawmakers say the smoking ban would overburden law enforcement.

“I don’t know how we can expect them (police) to stop everyone who is smoking a cigarette to see if there is a child in the car,” state Rep. Norm Johnson, R-Yakima, said.

The fine would be $125 for the first offense, additional violations could be as much as $250.

It would not show up on a driver’s record or be reported to an insurance company but some say the government is still going too far.

“When I see someone smoking with a kid in the car, I feel bad for the kids. But, on the other hand, it’s one of those issues … how far is too far for the government to come in and parent?” Thurston County resident Debra Defreyn said.

“I don`t think they should intervene. That’s like coming to my house to tell me I can’t do something in my house,” resident Charles Loughlin said.

“If (being) in a car was the same as being in a house, we wouldn’t be talking about this right now, but it’s 50 times more toxic. It means a lot,” Bergquist said.

The measure has been proposed in the past, but has not passed. In this version of the bill, the infraction would be a primary offense. That means a police officer could simply pull someone over if they see someone smoking and they think a minor is in the car.

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  • Chuck

    I agree that the government should not be involved in everything. But how many of these second hand inhalers are going to be relying on me to pay their medical bill in the future. Can't say all, can't say none. In the end I support it with the hope of making it one more difficult place to smoke with the thought it might end someone smoking habit

  • Dawn

    Well who’s gonna pay the 689 billion in taxes each year us smokers pay. I doubt you non smokers are going to pick up those taxes each year are you. What I do in my car and home shouldn’t be interfered by big brother. We live in the USA right land of the free? Or did I miss something

  • Faith H

    Do people really think this will work any better than the ‘Prohibition’ did? That didn’t work out so well, in fact it gave us a whole new breed of crinimal element that never went away, merely changed, after prohibition was repelled. I agree smoking in a closed vehicle with children is stupid, but stopped it has to be a personal choice, for it to be successful, much like any other addiction.

  • Tawny

    So what other part of our freedom is the government going to take away from us. I’m a smoker and yes I smoke in my car but I also smoke with the window down and my cigarette close to the open window, with or without my kid in the car. It’s my option to do what ever I want to do in my vehicle, I own it out right. If I wanted that kind of a rule with a vehicle I’d go and rent one everyday. Don’t tell me what I can and can not do in something that I worked my ass off to be able to afford. I love my child very much and I always make sure that there is plenty of fresh air for him and I never blow smoke his way. Now if the Windows were shut then yes say something but for heaven sakes stay out of it.