Illinois soon will have a ban in place on smoking in vehicles with children present.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently signed a bill that prohibits lighting up inside a car with anyone younger than 18 as a passenger. Kathy Drea, vice president of advocacy with the American Lung Association of Illinois, said the inspiration for the legislation came from teachers helping young students out of the car and into the classroom.
“Pre-school teachers were very concerned because when they opened the doors on those vehicles, so many were completely full of smoke,” Drea said. “Such small children were exposed to second-hand smoke in those circumstances.”
Drea pointed to studies that show children exposed to secondhand smoke can have an increased risk for SIDS, asthma issues and ear infections.
“Second-hand smoke in cars can reach alarmingly high levels,” Drea said. “Up to ten times more concentrated than what the EPA would consider unhealthy. It’s a serious concern.”
The legislation makes no distinction if the vehicle is at rest or moving or if the windows are down. It’s also immaterial if the children in the car are related to the driver.
“Our biggest concern is that second-hand smoke in such a small enclosed area,” Drea said. “And there might not just be one smoker in the vehicle. There might be two, there might be three.”
Violating the ban would be a petty crime, punishable by fines of up to $100 for a first offense and up to $250 for subsequent offenses. It’s not a primary offense, meaning drivers can’t be stopped by police simply for that violation.
“We don’t expect a lot of tickets to be issued,” Drea said. “This is all about social change, positive social change. Hopefully, people will hear this and think, ‘Wow, maybe I shouldn’t be smoking around my children, especially in such a small, enclosed space.’ And they’ll just comply.”
Under the language of the bill, using e-cigarettes with minors present would not be considered illegal. Drea said her organization will be pushing to include vaping in future legislation to amend the current measure.
The new law takes effect on Jan. 1.