Assemblyman Weprin and Doctors Join to Put Out the Smoke in Cars with Kids

June 12, 2011
From left to right: Dr. Perry Sheffield, Co-Chair of COEH, Dr. Warren M. Seigel, District Vice Chair of American Academy of Pediatrics, District II, NYS, Assemblyman David Weprin, Kayla Crowe, Christian Crowe, Caroline Mueller.
Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Queens), representatives from the American Academy of Pediatrics District II New York State, and concerned teenagers joined to emphasize the dangers of smoking in cars which children are present and advocate for smoke-free car environments.

"Most parents would be horrified at the thought of someone blowing smoke in their baby's face, but when a child is riding in a car with an adult who is smoking the effect is the same," said Donald Distasio, CEO, American Cancer Society of NY & NJ. "Kids don't have the choice, but lawmakers can choose to protect them by prohibiting smoking in cars occupied by children under age 14. Children are more vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke, with short term problems being more acute asthma attacks and respiratory issues and long term effects that could include cancer and heart disease. Is this the future that parents would want for their kids?"

Assemblyman Weprin’s Bill (A.7285) would prohibit smoking in private passenger vehicles where a minor less than 14 years of age is a passenger. Those found smoking in a car with a child under the age of 14 would be fined up to $100 by any law enforcement officer.

"S.3082 extends The Clean Indoor Act to motor vehicles. In the same way that restaurant employees and patrons alike were forced to breathe second hand smoke, children are being forced to breathe unhealthy air in cars. They do not have the option of leaving. In New York, we regulate conduct within a motor vehicle by providing protections for both children and drivers. We mandate the use of car seats and seat belts in private automobiles. This bill is only an extension of those protections. It will help children breathe clean air while they are riding in automobiles. There is no constitutional right to smoke. It is not a protected activity,” stated State Senator Toby Stavisky (D-Queens), who sponsors the bill in the Senate.

“It is of utmost importance to protect our children, whose bodies are still developing and who often do not have a voice of their own” stated Assemblyman Weprin.

“If there was ever a place where there was no escape from secondhand smoke, it is within the confines of a vehicle,” said Michael Seilback, VP Public Policy and Communications at the American Lung Association in New York. “The U.S. Surgeon General has said there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and that it is a known asthma trigger. We commend Assemblymember Weprin for sponsoring this legislation which recognizes that kids’ lungs are smaller than adults and more susceptible to the effects of secondhand smoke. This bill would not only protect those under 14 from unwillingly breathing in this carcinogen, but raise awareness about the very real dangers secondhand smoke presents to everyone who breathes it in.”

Exposure to secondhand smoke as a child has been linked to an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), severe respiratory infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, an increased number of asthma attacks, and ear infections. Smoking by parents causes breathing problems and slows lung growth in their children.

"We enthusiastically support this bill banning smoking in cars with child passengers. The research has clearly demonstrated that second hand smoke is toxic to children." said Dr. Henry Schaeffer, Chair of American Academy of Pediatrics, District II, NYS. "Our more than 5,000 pediatricians across the state work hard every day to ensure healthier environments for children. Getting adults to not smoke around children is critical. It is a public health priority. Passing this bill will help us ensure healthier environments for all children." He added.

"Many smokers still think its okay to light up in their cars even when kids are riding with them," said NYPIRG Legislative Counsel Russ Haven. "This legislation will help change that old, faulty way of thinking about the dangers to children from second-hand smoke. This isn't about issuing tickets, it's about raising awareness that putting children in cramped quarters and exposing them to cigarette smoke endangers their health."

“Our goal is to increase awareness about the dangers of second hand smoke. Research shows that similar bans decrease the overall number of cigarettes people smoke and in some cases, actually result in people quitting,” stated Mr. Weprin, “I think, parents will ultimately do the right thing and take their smoking away from their kids.”

Five other states and Puerto Rico have passed similar legislation that would protect our children from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

“It is time New York joins these states in doing what is right for our kids.” stated Mr. Weprin.

A7285 is expected to be voted on by the full Assembly next week.