Oregon House Passes Important Children’s Health & Safety Bill

(June 3, 2013)

Contact: Colleen Hermann-Franzen
(503) 718-6145
chermann@lungoregon.org

Oregon House Passes Important Children’s Health & Safety Bill
Smokefree Cars for Kids Bill Passes with Bipartisan Support

Portland, Ore. – Today, the Oregon House took an important step forward to improve the health and safety of our children by passing Senate Bill 444-A, also known as the “Smokefree Cars for Kids” bill. The bill passed with strong bipartisan support, with a final vote of 43-15 (two excused) in favor of the legislation. 

Senate Bill 444-A makes smoking in a motor vehicle with a minor under the age of 18 present a secondary traffic violation. The primary goal of the bill is to decrease children’s exposure to secondhand smoke in the small, enclosed area of a car. A secondary goal is to educate parents and other adults about the dangers of smoking in a car with a minor present. According to the Oregon Health Authority, children in an estimated 50,000 Oregon families are currently exposed to secondhand smoke in motor vehicles.

The U.S. Surgeon General has confirmed that secondhand smoke can cause critical health problems and that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke. The 2006 Surgeon General’s report determined that secondhand smoke poses a greater risk to children of developing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, more severe asthma, and stunted lung growth.

“The passing of the Smokefree Cars for Kids bill is an important step for Oregon to ensure the safety and health of our children,” said Colleen Hermann-Franzen, Regional Advocacy and Communications Manager for the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific. “We thank the Oregon Legislature for their leadership in protecting the health and future of Oregon’s youth.”

According to a California Air Resources Board study, secondhand smoke in motor vehicles can be up to 27 times more concentrated than in a smoker’s home.  In addition, by the time it takes to smoke half a cigarette, the air quality in a parked car can reach up to 10 times the hazardous level on the EPA’s Air Quality Index.  Whether the car is moving or parked, the windows opened or cracked, the air quality level remains in the hazardous zone, with smoke often pooling in the back seat.

With the passing of Senate Bill 444, Oregon becomes the sixth state in the country to pass legislation prohibiting smoking in cars with minors. A California Department of Public Health study on the effects of California’s smokefree cars law found a reduction in secondhand smoke exposure in a car among youth in 2007-2008 (22.7% of youth) compared to the previous survey during 2006-2007 (26.1% of youth).

“Although there is still much work to be done to ensure our air is clean and healthy to breathe,” said Hermann-Franzen, “we can celebrate the movement towards this goal due to the support and passing of Senate Bill 444-A.”

The American Lung Association in Oregon worked in conjunction with a broad coalition of health and children’s organizations to pass this legislation. Chief sponsors of the bill were: State Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D), State Rep. Jim Thompson (R) and State Rep. Brian Clem (D). 

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About the American Lung Association in Oregon
The American Lung Association in Oregon is a non-profit, voluntary public health organization, working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease in Oregon. Our programs focus on the areas of air quality, tobacco prevention and cessation and lung health.

For more information about the American Lung Association in Oregon or to support the work it does, call (503) 924-4094 or visit: www.lung.org/oregon.