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No smoking in a vehicle with children

published 3/17/2010
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Smoking in vehicles where children are present would be prohibited under a bill heard by the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee.

Rep. Nora Slawik (DFL-Maplewood) sponsors HF379, which would allow peace officers to issue citations for the proposed offense only if a vehicle is stopped for another violation. Slawik said she does not intend to move her bill through the committee process or add it to other legislation this year.

“The time will come – we’re probably not there yet,” she said.

Secondhand smoke in vehicles is particularly harmful to children because their breathing rates are faster and their developing lungs take in more toxins, said Natalie Johnson Lee, executive director of the Minnesota African American Tobacco Education Network. Black children have significantly higher rates of asthma and other smoking-related conditions compared to other children, she said.

Other bill proponents, including 13-year-old Joe Chlebeck, encouraged legislators to protect young children who cannot speak for themselves. Chlebeck compared riding in a smoke-filled vehicle to “being in prison and a gas chamber.”

When future discussion of the bill occurs, debate will likely center on encroachment on to private property, said Rep. Laura Brod (R-New Prague).

A companion, SF359, sponsored by Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul), awaits action by the Senate Health and Human Services Budget Division.

- Lauren Radomski


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