Lung Association: Ban Smoking in Cars with Kids Present

Voluntary policies fail to protect children

CHICAGO (February 12, 2014)

The American Lung Association in Greater Chicago announces today that it will support Illinois Senator Ira I. Silverstein’s proposal next week for a new law that would make it illegal to smoke in a car with a child present. 

“It’s a fact, there is no safe exposure to secondhand smoke and the air quality in a car where someone is smoking can reach nearly ten times over the hazardous levels set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency,” said Kathy Drea, Vice President of the American Lung Association in Illinois.

“Ultimately, voluntary policies fail to protect all children. Misconceptions persist about health risks from smoking in vehicles, and smoking in cars continues unchecked in Illinois. So, the goal is to educate, not to punish. The main objective of smoke-free car laws isn't to ticket everyone who smokes in a car, but instead to raise awareness and educate the public about the hazards of secondhand smoke,” she said.

If Illinois passes the law, it would be in good company as Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon and Utah have similar laws, and 14 states are considering bills that would restrict smoking in cars. 

Violators would face a $100 fine if caught, but police would not be able to pull drivers over for this alone. The law would be aimed at reducing children’s exposure to second-hand smoke. Lawmakers passed a resolution last year discouraging people from smoking with a minor in the car, but didn’t ban it.

“The scientific evidence is indisputable, inhaling tobacco smoke is deadly. Tobacco use continues to kill more Americans than any other preventable cause of death. This bill is just one more important thing we can do to prevent smoking initiation and promote cessation,” said Drea.

“In 1964, when that first Surgeon General’s report was released, everyone had their seat belts tucked in the cracks of the seats, children bounced around in vehicles and people smoked everywhere and were accommodated. The social changes we have seen in those 50 years are significant. Wearing seat belts, using car seats, prohibiting smoking in workplaces and even restricting cell phone use in cars all were tried as education efforts first, but they had to become laws in order to have the high rates of compliance that we have today.”

Media contact: James A. Martinez; O: 312-445-2501; C: 312-718-5875; E: James.Martinez@Lung.org.

About the American Lung Association in Greater Chicago
Our mission is to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is "Fighting for Air" through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.LungIL.org.