Ban on smoking in vehicles with children goes into effect in Illinois
(The Center Square) – Illinois now has a ban in place on smoking in vehicles with children present.
The measure, which takes effect June 1, prohibits lighting up with anyone under the age of 18 inside.
“Children are more sensitive to secondhand smoke because their lungs are smaller,” said Kristina Hamilton, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Illinois and Iowa. “And we know that secondhand smoke exposure is linked to a number of health issues in children like sudden infant death syndrome, asthma flare ups, wheezing, coughing, and other respiratory tract issues.”
Violating the ban will be punishable by fines of up to $100 for a first offense and up to $250 for subsequent violations. It’s not a primary offense, meaning drivers can’t be stopped simply for that reason. However, Hamilton said she believes it still will be effective in changing behavior.
“We don't expect a lot of fines and tickets to be issued for this law,” Hamilton said. “We anticipate that once the public is aware of this law, it will spur more social change. Tobacco users will see this law and reflect on using cigarettes around their young children. And that will in turn change behavior as longer term.”
The law makes no distinction between a vehicle at rest or moving and there’s no consideration as to whether or not the windows are rolled down.
“[Kids] don't often have the ability to change their environment or to remove themselves from an unhealthy environment,” Hamilton said. “Policies like prohibiting smoking in a small space, like a car, around children are really helpful to making sure that children’s health is protected.”
Eight other states have similar measures already on the books. The push for the law in Illinois came from school teachers who were helping students out of cars.
“We were hearing stories from preschool teachers that were helping small children out of their parents’ or guardians’ cars,” Hamilton said. “And there would be all of the smoke that would come out of the car and the teachers could notice pretty obviously that you know, that the kid was in a car with someone who was smoking.”
Using e-cigarettes with minors present is not illegal, but Hamilton says they’re pushing to include vaping in a future piece of legislation.