DARKE COUNTY — A controversial bill proposed regarding Ohioans receiving a $500 fine if caught smoking with children under six in the car isn’t gaining much traction and is set to be reintroduced.
The proposed Ohio Senate Bill 106 would prohibit smoking in a vehicle containing a passenger under six years of age. The bill was sponsored by Ohio State Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus), and co-sponsored by Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati), Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights), and Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo).
“[Children] have no say in getting into an enclosed vehicle with someone who is smoking,” Tavares said in an interview with the Dayton Daily News in March. “Their little lungs breathe deeper, particularly infants. They breathe deeper and they breathe faster.”
Tavares said that states such as Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon, Utah and Vermont have already adopted similar restrictions.
The language of the bill also specifies that “if the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a violation of this section, the offender shall be fined an amount equal to $500 plus $250 for each subsequent violation.” So repeatedly being caught violating the law could carry a hefty price.
State Representative Steve Huffman (District 80) expressed mixed feelings about the legislation.
“As a physician, I think people shouldn’t smoke around kids,” Huffman said. “The health risks for people and children who smoke are well-documented. But as a state representative, I don’t think we should tell people that they can’t do what they feel they should in their own private car.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia, ear infections, chronic cough, and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
“People make bad choices,” Huffman said. “It’s not the job of the physician or the state of Ohio to tell them they shouldn’t make bad choices. That’s their decision.”
Huffman further stated that it’s not possible to legislate against any and every parenting decision that he, or anyone else, might happen to disagree with.
“It’s a bad parenting choice to feed kids sugary cereals, but I’m not going to pass a law to say that you can’t have cereal for breakfast. That’s a parent’s decision,” Huffman said. “There’s a lot of bad things that parents do, but we can’t outlaw all the bad things they can possibly do. What I think is bad, other parents might not think is bad.”
J.P. Dorval, Senior Legislative Aide for Senator Tavares, said that the bill has been introduced during the last two Ohio general assemblies, and that in both cases there’s been no movement on the bill. This could mean that the assembled lawmakers simply didn’t get around to debating the controversial piece of legislation, or that a hostile senator deliberately killed it.
“In any case, the chair of the committee chose not to give the bill a hearing, so it died,” Dorval said.
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