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In car with kid? No smokes
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On Jan. 1, 2008, California Health and Safety Code Section 118948 became law. This new law prohibits persons from smoking in a motor vehicle with minors present. The law applies to all occupants of motor vehicles - including cars and trucks, whether the vehicle is stopped, parked or moving.

This new code section uses the term "minors," which is intended to apply to persons under the age of 18 years. The legislative intent appears to be the protection of young peoples' health. This law also states that smoking tobacco (in cigarettes, cigars and pipes) or smoking any other plant is subject to its control. In other words, persons who smoke anything at all, whether it is a tobacco product, marijuana or other substances, simply may not light up in the vehicle in the presence of a person under 18. To be clear, the "smoker" need not be actively inhaling or exhaling to violate this law; he or she need only to have a lit product in their possession in order to be in violation. Minors themselves are also subject to being cited for this offense.

Studies show that the exposure to smoked products inside a vehicle is up to 10 times greater than what the federal government states is hazardous. The fact that the interior of a vehicle is enclosed tends to concentrate smoke much more so than in the open air. And the act of smoking in a vehicle not only exposes passengers to the harmful effects of the smoke, but it also sets the example for young people who grow to see this behaviour as normal and expected. They are therefore more likely to adopt the smoking habit.

The penalty for violation H&S Code Section 118948 is $100, enforceable by any California peace officer. To some, this new law may seem like just another example of the government extending its power into our personal lives. But given what is at stake for our youngsters, this law not only makes sense, but is quite necessary for their health. According to a 2006 Surgeon General's report, "The debate is over. The science is clear. Second-hand smoke is not a mere annoyance but a serious health hazard." I fully support this new law and, as is likely the case with other law enforcement chiefs in this state, I will ask the officers to rigorously enforce this law.