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This State May Fine Parents for Smoking in the Car With Their Kids

Indiana could join the handful of states that address what everyone acknowledges is a health risk for kids.

Secondhand smoke is — spoiler alert — terrible for kids. Kids who breathe it in get more ear infections, asthma attacks, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Banning adults from smoking with kids in the car seems like a no-brainer, but only eight states, Puerto Rico, and Guam currently do. Two Indiana lawmakers are trying to make their state the ninth.

“Smoking is a danger to yourself as well as others, and to be riding along in a car and getting secondhand smoke is just not acceptable for anyone but more so for children who just don’t have a choice,” said Senator Jim Merritt, a Republican who co-authored Senate Bill 34, along with Senator Eddie Melton, a Democrat.

Under the terms of the bill, smoking with a child under six would result in a fine up to $1,000. Three offenses in a 12-month period would increase that fine to $10,000.

Merritt admitted that the bill may be “unenforceable,” but he wants to send a message to parents.

“I want to say to mom and dad [that] this is not right,” Merritt said.

If it’s passed, Indiana’s law would have the most severe punishment. Offenders in Maine, for instance, only face a $50 fine. It would also have the lowest age limit; California, Oregon, and Puerto Rico all ban smoking in cars with anyone under the age of 18.

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In Alabama, a similar bill passed the House last year but failed to make it out of the Senate. It would have banned smoking in a car with anyone 19 or younger, attaching a fine of up to $100. The legislator who sponsored that bill, Representative Rolanda Hollis, is planning to reintroduce the bill again this year.

A 2015 CDC study showed that 92.2 percent of parents from smoke-free households supported such restrictions, which is to be expected. A strong if not quite as dominant majority, 72.2 percent, of parents not from smoke-free households did as well.