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Smoking in a car with kids

Lit cigarette in car

Only 16 states allow people to light up in restaurants, but smoking in your car with kids as passengers is still permitted in 42 states. Studies of secondhand smoke exposure show that one person smoking in a car can make the air inside the vehicle up to 10 times more toxic than the level the EPA says is hazardous for breathing. The EPA also points out that children exposed to high doses of secondhand smoke are more likely to experience health issues, such as asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia.

Since the United States doesn’t have a federal law about smoking in vehicles that contain minors, individual states can set their own. Only eight states currently say no to smokers lighting up with a child in the vehicle: 

  • Arkansas (with children under 14)
  • California (with children under 18)
  • Louisiana (with children under 13)
  • Maine (with children under 16)
  • Oregon (with children under age 18)
  • Utah (with children under 15)
  • Vermont (with children 8 or younger)
  • Virginia (with children 8 or younger)

The penalty and what can’t be smoked varies. In Oregon, the infraction is a secondary offense with a maximum fine of $250, and the law also covers marijuana and regulated narcotic. Virginia is the latest to join the list with their July 2016 law that says a fine of $100 can be levied against anyone in a car who holds a lit pipe, cigar, cigarette or other smoking equipment (secondary offense).

Numerous cities and counties in other states also have local smoking prohibitions in place if you’re transporting minors. In some areas, such as Kingman, Arizona, the law extends the ban to e-cigarettes.

In other states, such laws have failed to pass. Recently Florida, New Jersey and Ohio legislators tried to pass bills banning smoking in cars with minors, but none made it into law.

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