Effective Jan. 1, 2008, Health & Safety Code §118947 bans the smoking of any cigarette, pipe, or cigar in a moving or parked vehicle while a youth younger than the age of 18 is present.
As a result of this law, children in cars will breathe less secondhand smoke. It may also help reduce cigarette litter on streets and highways and help smokers to quit.
Children are especially at risk to the harmful health effects caused by breathing secondhand smoke in confined spaces, such as a car or truck. The level of toxic air in a vehicle when someone is smoking is up to ten times greater than the level which the United States Environmental Protection Agency considers hazardous.
The harmful chemicals in secondhand smoke can remain in the air and on surfaces in a car or truck for many hours, and even days, after a cigarette has been smoked. These chemicals stick to surfaces, such as a child’s car seat, making it a potential hidden source of danger for children.
Smokers can be fined up to $100 for smoking in vehicles when youth are present.
Health & Safety Code §118947 will be enforced by law enforcement officers such as city police officers, Sheriff deputies, and California Highway Patrol officers. Law enforcement officials may not stop a vehicle for a smoking violation alone.
While California’s smoke-free car law is the most comprehensive, protecting all minors, other states and jurisdiction have adopted similar policies aimed at reducing involuntary secondhand smoke exposure. Jurisdictions that ban smoking in vehicles that transport children include Arkansas – under age 6 or 60 pounds in weight (2006); Louisiana – under age 13 (August 2006); Puerto Rico – under age 13 (March 2007); South Australia – under age 16 (May 2007); Bangor, Maine – under age 18 (Jan 2007); Keyport, New Jersey – under age 18 (April 2007); Rockland County, New York – under age 18 (June 2007); and West Long Branch, New Jersey – under age 18 (June 2007). States that ban smoking in vehicles that transport foster children include Arizona, Texas, Maine, Vermont, New Jersey, Washington and Oregon.
California has enacted laws on personal activities based on the existence of a known danger when there are no alternative means to effectively reduce risk or harm. For example, seatbelt and bicycle helmet requirements, child safety seat requirements, and child flotation device regulations.
No groups have registered their opposition to the law. Supporting groups included: American Lung Association; American Academy of Pediatrics; American Cancer Society; American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; American Heart Association; Breathe California; California Black Health Network; California Dental Association; City of Los Angeles, Office of the Mayor; First 5 California; and the Oakland-Berkley Asthma Coalition.
In 2005 California Tobacco Survey, 92.3% of California adults agreed that smoking should not be allowed inside cars when children are in them.
For more information, contact your local health department’s tobacco control program; the California Department of Public Health, Tobacco Control Section at www.cdph.ca.gov; or the California Clean Air Project at www.ccap.etr.org.
Californians who would like help to quit smoking can contact the California Smokers’ Helpline at 1-800-NO-BUTTS