Oregon Senate votes to ban smoking in car with kids

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Adults who smoke in a car with a child could face hundreds of dollars in fines under a bill approved Wednesday in the Oregon Senate.

If the House gives its approval and Gov. John Kitzhaber signs the bill, Oregon would join four other states with similar measures. Violators would face a maximum fine of $250 for a first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.

The Senate's 19-10 vote Wednesday did not follow party lines.

Proponents said secondhand smoke is harmful, and minors shouldn't be subjected to health hazards because of their parents' decision to smoke. They say smoke can be trapped inside a vehicle and pool in the back seat where children often sit.

"Secondhand smoke is dangerous, and it's especially dangerous for children, more dangerous still when it's enclosed in a confined space," said Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, the bill's chief sponsor and a family physician in Portland.

Critics say the state shouldn't be limiting people's liberties or telling parents how to raise their children. The bill exceeds government's role and creates a "nanny state" that micromanages citizens' lives, they said.

"The reason I'm opposing this is not that smoking in cars is a good idea," said Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg. "The reason I'm opposing this is, how dare government tell me what I'm going to do in my own car."

Kruse said he's a smoker but called it a "terrible habit" and said he never smoked in the car with his children.

Not all conservatives agreed. Republican Sen. Fred Girod, of Stayton, said he opposes bills he believes create a "nanny state," but the smoking ban is different because it seeks to protect children from decisions they can't control. He voted for the measure, Senate Bill 444.

The violation would be a secondary offense, so drivers could only be ticketed if they were pulled over for another reason.

Arkansas, California, Louisiana and Maine have enacted similar legislation, along with several cities and counties around the country, according to Global Advisers on Smoke-free Policy, and advocacy group.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.