Metro

Legislation would ban smoking in vehicles with children

Smokers who drive with children in their vehicles would no longer be able to light up, under legislation being considered by the Legislature’s Public Health Committee.

Paul Heroux, a freshman state representative from Attleboro, wants to make it illegal to smoke with children in the car, citing health risks from secondhand smoke.

Heroux, a Democrat, said the proposed law could be enforced similar to the law banning texting while driving.

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“If an officer sees it, you are busted,” Heroux said after testifying Tuesday on his bill, dubbed “an act to protect little lungs.” The bill was cosponsored by Representatives Mary Keefe, Democrat of Worcester; Thomas Sannicandro, Democrat of Ashland; and Marjorie Decker, Democrat of Cambridge.

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Any driver or passenger who violates the law would be subject to a $100 fine.

Police officers would not be able to search or inspect a motor vehicle or its contents, the driver, or a passenger solely because the vehicle was pulled over for the smoking violation, according to the legislation, which would apply to vehicles carrying children who are required to be secured by a child passenger restraint.

Heroux acknowledged that his proposal would not be easy to enforce, but said he hopes it would make smokers think twice before lighting up with children in the car.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke because their bodies and brains are still growing, according to the surgeon general’s Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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Secondhand smoke exposure causes acute lower respiratory infections in infants and young children.

Children with asthma experience more frequent and severe attacks, and children ­exposed to smoke are at ­increased risk for ear infections, according to the surgeon general’s ­report.