A proposed bill in the Alabama legislature would make it unlawful to smoke tobacco products while a minor is riding in the vehicle.
The bill, titled HB-26, was proposed by State Representative Rolanda Hollis (D-Jefferson County). Hollis pre-filed the bill back in November, well before the actual legislative session began Jan. 9.
The bill, if passed into law, would make it illegal to smoke pipes, cigarettes, cigars or any other tobacco product that emits smoke, as long as a minor is also riding the car.
The bill as written does not seem to apply to e-cigarettes or vaping devices.
The law would apply whether the car was moving or not, and violators would face up to a $100 fine for each infraction.
Hollis told AL.com she got the idea after riding in her husband’s truck while he smoking. “I couldn't hardly breathe and I told him there should be a law against it,” she told the site.
“We know secondhand smoke, especially in a car which is a small, compact place, can cause asthma. Not just asthma, it can cause chronic disease," Hollis wold WBRC.
Secondhand smoke, or tobacco smoke unintentionally inhaled by nonsmokers while they are around a smoker, has been linked to heart and lung disease, sudden infant death syndrome, ear and lung infections and worsening heart disease and asthma, according to the American Lung Association.
It can be especially harmful to children, too, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“While a child’s lungs are still developing, they can be easily damaged by exposure to the high level of secondhand smoke in a car,” the agency wrote on smoking in vehicles. “Even though many smokers choose to open a window or increase the ventilation, the child passenger is still not fully protected. Secondhand smoke lingers long after the smoking stops.”
The bill has precedent. Smoking in a car with minors is already against the law in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Virginia, as well as Puerto Rico. It is also banned in various counties and cities across the country. Similar measures have been brought in Georgia but have never made it to the governor’s desk.
The bill will face opposition from those who say the government has no business telling people what they can or cannot do in their own cars.
Others are already showing their support for the idea.
Hollis said she did not think the bill was an overreach.
“I don’t think it’s taking away anybody’s rights. I think that the same way we have to step outside of a building to smoke a cigarette,” Hollis told WFSA. “I think it is only fair to step outside of a car to smoke a cigarette especially when we have children in the car.”