The Florida House of Representatives is attempting to pass a bill that would prohibit smoking tobacco products in vehicles with minors present.
House Bill 341, filed on Nov. 22, 2013, would be a secondary action. This means that police officers must pull the person over for a driving violation first. Violating this law would result in a minimum $30 fine, plus the first offense’s penalty.
The National Cancer Institute reports that among the 7,000 chemicals that have been identified in secondhand smoke, 250 are known to be harmful, and 69 are known carcinogens. Some of the commonly known disease-causing chemicals are carbon monoxide, ammonia and formaldehyde.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths occur a year in nonsmoking adults from the exposure to secondhand smoke. Also, the U.S. Surgeon General estimates that residing with a smoker can increase one’s chances of lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.
Sponsor of the bill, Rep. Charles McBurney (R) from Orlando, wants Floridians to be aware of the high stakes secondhand smoke poses.
“What I’m really trying to do is to educate the dangers of secondhand smoking,” McBurney said. “This isn’t about ‘big brother,’ this is about little brother in a car seat, in the back seat. This bill is simply to protect children; it has nothing to do with adults,” McBurney said to the Washington Press.
Alethia Kielbasa, a Florida Gulf Coast University junior studying climatology and education believes that the law is solely beneficial.
“Smoking is such a great danger to our health. If you want to smoke and risk that—go ahead. But don’t punish someone else, especially a child who needs to breathe the same air you’re polluting,” Kielbasa said.
However, one smoker is concerned that the bill may be encroaching on privacy rights and acting too much as “big brother.” Harland Simonds, an FGCU senior double majoring in communication and environmental studies, questions the bill.
“Whoever owns the vehicle has the right to smoke tobacco in their car. It’s a legal drug. Parents have the right to decide what they do in front of their children—not the government. It’s an invasion of privacy and parenting,” Simonds said.
Besides being harmful to one’s health, smoking while driving can also be distracting, according to Lee County Sheriff Michael Scott.
Despite believing that, Scott opposes the bill.
“We already have a law called ‘Careless Driving’ on the books, and it covers drivers that cause a crash whether it’s a cigarette, a lap dog, or a #3 combo meal,” Scott wrote in an email. “Ultimately, it’s boils down to personal responsibility.”
If passed, the new bill will go into effect on Oct. 1, 2014.