New law prohibits smoking in a car with minors present |

New law prohibits smoking in a car with minors present

A new California law that took effect New Year’s Day prohibits adults from smoking in vehicles when children under the age of 18 are present.

The “smoke-free cars with minors” law was passed to protect children from exposure to secondhand smoke, according to Christy Kessler, supervising health education coordinator for the El Dorado County Public Health Department.

Kessler said the bill had been in the works for several years and previously was rejected. Louisiana and Arkansas also ban smoking in cars when minors are present, although the Arkansas law applies to children under 60 pounds or younger than 6. In Louisiana, the law applies to children younger than 13.

“This is an attempt by the state to protect kids from breathing secondhand smoke,” Kessler said. “It’s another layer of protection.”

Kessler said the U.S. Surgeon General has reported that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, especially when a minor is involved.

“Tinier people absorb things differently,” she said. “Secondhand smoke is not filtered the same way. Nonsmokers have higher exposures to toxins.”

Kessler said citations for smoking with minors in a vehicle only will be issued to people pulled over for another violation, whether the vehicle is moving or not.

“We in prevention look at this as a positive way to protect children,” Kessler said. “We’re not going to single anyone out.”

In 2002, California passed a law barring the smoking of any cigarette, cigar or other tobacco-related product within 25 feet of a playground or tot lot sandbox area, a designated play area for children ages 5 and younger, according to Kessler.

The law also prohibits disposing of any tobacco-related waste within a playground or a tot lot sandbox area, including cigarettes, cigarette butts and cigar butts, and prohibits intimidating or retaliating against another people who seek compliance with the law.

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