Spin Control

Smoking in cars with kids could mean a ticket

OLYMPIA -- Washington drivers who smoke in a car with children would be liable for a traffic ticket under a bill being discussed in the state Senate.

The proposal, which had its first hearing Wednesday in the Senate Transportation Committee, wouldn't allow law enforcement officers to stop a driver just because they see smoking and a child present. Rather, it would be a "secondary infraction" which means they'd get a ticket if they were stopped for some other violation and were seen to be smoking with someone under 18 in the car.

Sen. Scott White, D-Seattle, said the bill would bring Washington in line with California, Oregon and three other states who have similar laws, and makes sense with this state's Clean Air Act: "We prevent a person from smoking in a bar with other adults present, but we don't prevent smoking in a car with a two-year-old strapped in a car seat and driving across the state."

State Health Secretary Mary Selecky said it would be a valuable tool for keeping children healthy: "Second-hand smoke is especially h armful to children and there is no safe level of exposure."

White urged the committee to send SB 5016 to the Health Committee for further review. As currently written,if it passes, it wouldn't take effect until three months after the session and would require law enforcement officers to just give a verbal warning for six months after that. A ticket for smoking around a minor would not be part of a driver's record and wouldn't be available to insurance companies. 

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Olympia bureau chief, covering the Legislature and state government. He also is a political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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