State senator pushes for smoking ban while kids are in cars

State senator pushes for smoking ban while kids are in cars

SALEM, Ore. - A bill aimed at banning smoking while kids are in a vehicle found support and expansion Thursday in Salem.

Oregon State Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward of Beaverton is backing the bill, known as Senate Bill 444.

Apart from being a state senator, Hayward is a family physician at Oregon Health & Science University and serves as the President of the Oregon Academy of Family Physicians, according to her Oregon Legislature biography. She is also the Director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Breast Health Education Program.

"Children are more affected by secondhand smoke, their bodies are still developing and they become more at risk for severe respiratory diseases," Hayward said. "They really don't have a choice often about where they are - certainly when they're in a car, they have no choice about that. They can't get themselves places."

If passed, police could not pull a vehicle over simply for someone smoking inside while children are riding along.

However, if an officer concludes that's the case while a driver is pulled over for another reason, the initial ticket and fine would be $250. A repeat offense would be $500 and a third violation would carry a $1,000 fine.

On Thursday, a senate committee reviewed the bill and expanded it to include all products that generate smoke in a vehicle, including such things as cigars and clove cigarettes. There are also no exceptions, such as drivers saying they had their window down while smoking.

No one was present Thursday to speak out against the bill but those opposed are expected to argue that a vehicle is a person's private and personal space.

"It increases the severity of asthma bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections and other infectious diseases," Hayward said.

If passed, Oregon would not be the first place to enact such a ban.

"In Britain, for example, where they instituted smoke-free laws of various kinds, the more of those that there are, there's a drop in kids hospitalized for asthma attacks," Hayward said.

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