Smoking In Cars With Children Ban Spreading In United States

Scott Falkner

Last October, England made a law banning anyone from smoking in a car if there were children present. Now, the illegality of smoking in a car when there is a child present is slowly spreading across the United States.

State Senator Janet Bewley (D) of Wisconsin has proposed a bill in which it would be a crime to smoke in a car where a child was present. If her bill passes, Wisconsin will join Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, Maine, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and several cities and counties across the United States that already have official restrictions on smoking in cars with children.

While the undue effects of smoking in a car where a child is present are undisputed, naysayers in the United States are worried about the government infringing on personal rights.

Wisconsin State Senator Janet Bewley spoke about why she put forth the smoking ban bill.

"When you've got our most fragile people, little children... exposed to smoking in an enclosed space, it seems that a reasonable person would say, 'You know, that's not a good thing.' I think that we do need to come out in defense of those tiny little lungs. I'm not apologetic about that at all."

According to Bewley's proposed bill, smoking in a car with a child present would become a secondary traffic violation, meaning that an individual couldn't be pulled over for solely violating the smoking ban but could be cited for it if they were pulled over for something else. The bill sets forth a $25 fine if the smoking law is violated. Additionally, the smoker only faces a fine if the child is still young enough to be in a child seat.

While some anti-smoking proponents may see Wisconsin State Senator Bewley's proposed bill as a step in the right direction, some may not feel that it goes far enough. States like California have laws stating that it's illegal to smoke in a car with any child under 18 present.

As of July 5, 2010, Wisconsin joined the majority of the other states when it enforced a ban on all smoking inside any public place or workplace. When the ban was enacted across much of the country, there were many who cried foul, especially in terms of bars and restaurants, stating that it should be the owner's right to decide whether or not their establishment was smoke-free. Now, however, the lack of smoking in most bars, restaurants, planes, buses, trains, subways, and retailers feels commonplace, which makes one wonder whether an eventual ban on smoking in cars might be on the horizon.

When the smoking ban went into effect in England last October, the critics of the law weren't just smokers. Many police officers across the U.K. also complained about the new anti-smoking law. Jayne Willetts of the English Police Federation said that the law was "unnecessary."

"Making this an offense that officers are expected to enforce just creates an unnecessary extra layer of bureaucracy. No force can prioritize their hard-pressed police officers' time for this."

In England, violators caught smoking in a car where children under the age of 18 are present can face a fine of up to 50 pounds (almost $75). Additionally, violators in England can be pulled over solely for smoking in a car with a child present.

The U.K. is not the first country to ban smoking in cars with children. Canada, France, Australia, South Africa, Bahrain, Cyprus, and the United Arab Emirates already have restrictions in one form or another against smoking in cars with children.

What do you think? Is this a necessary law that needs to be implemented across the country to protect American children from the dangers of secondhand smoke in cars? Do you feel that these laws are just one more way the government is trampling on the personal freedoms of everyday Americans?

[Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images]