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Editorial: Ban smoking in cars with children passengers

Editorial: Ban smoking in cars with children passengers

Statewide ban would make enforcement, public notification easier
Editorial: Ban smoking in cars with children passengers
Photographer: Shutterstock

Is this really still a thing?

New York still allows people to smoke in their cars with children sitting there with them?

When governments ban people from smoking in outdoor parks, but allow drivers to blow smoke in the faces of defenseless children in an area half the size of a porta-potty, something is messed up.

It’s time to turn this absurd lapse of judgment into a law.

Kids are captive audiences in cars. The state needs to protect them from the harm that second-hand smoke can do to them.

Children breathe in pollutants more rapidly than adults and have less developed immune systems. Second-hand smoke can also lead to severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections and ear infections in children, and even sudden infant death syndrome. Yes, you can actually kill a baby with it.

Erie County legislator Patrick Burke started the ball rolling this year, calling for a county ban to after witnessing a motorist smoking with kids in the car. “In 2018, this type of legislation shouldn’t be even necessary,” he said. “But it is.”

In December 2016, the city of Schenectady became the first city in the state to ban the practice, with escalating fines starting at $50. Rockland County has had its law on the books for a decade. California, Maine, Louisiana, and Arkansas have enacted comparable legislation.

In 2016, we supported the Schenectady initiative, but urged state lawmakers to make the ban statewide. 

A statewide bill (A5096/S5209) that would have imposed fines on smokers who lit up in vehicles carrying passengers under the age of 14 didn’t get far last year. But it’s already been referred to committees in both houses already this year, so there’s hope.

Having a statewide ban instead of a patchwork of laws would make it easier for officials to inform motorists about the law and would provide for more uniform enforcement statewide.

As for enforcement, the law will be no more difficult to enforce than any other current in-vehicle regulation, such as texting, talking on hand-held phones, not having children properly secured in safety seats, and not wearing seat belts. 

In fact, it’s probably a lot easier for a police officer to catch someone smoking with kids in a car than it is to catch someone texting on their lap.

As for any additional burden on police, they’ll just add it to the list of infractions they already can stop you for.

And don’t cry about your civil rights. Police can regulate what you do in your car. And kids have rights, too.

It’s appalling that we even need a law prohibiting smoking in vehicles where children are present.

What would be even more appalling would be if state lawmakers can’t figure out how to pass one. 

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