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State

If bill passes, people would get fined for smoking with kids in the car

Illinois Senate considering measure

Smokers could get a ticket for lighting up in a vehicle with minors in the car under a bill sent to the full Illinois Senate this week.

House Bill 2276, which the House already passed 78-20, says someone can be ticketed if they are caught smoking in a car with a person under the age of 18. The bill says it doesn’t matter if the vehicle is moving or parked at the time, nor if the windows are open or closed.

A first offense can garner a fine of up to $100. Additional violations can be fined up to $250. Electronic cigarettes are exempted from the bill.

Similar legislation has been proposed in the past but failed to get approval in the General Assembly. Morrison said one reason for that is the previous version made smoking with a minor in the car a primary offense, which means police could stop a car just because they suspect someone is smoking with minors present.

The new version makes the smoking violation a secondary offense. That means an officer would need another reason to stop a vehicle – such as for speeding – and then could issue a ticket for smoking in addition to the primary offense.

Minority lawmakers were concerned law enforcement would use a smoking law to harass minority drivers.

No one voted against the bill during a Senate Public Health Committee meeting Tuesday, but Sen. Laura Murphy, D-Des Plaines, had reservations about it.

“I hate smoking and I will vote all day long to tax cigarettes,” Murphy said. “I really think this is an overreach to say that people can’t smoke in their vehicles. I just think it is too much government.”

However, Sen. Steve McClure, R-Springfield, said the bill is needed to protect children.

“The question is whether you think it’s right for a little 4-year-old to be trapped in a small space and be forced to smoke by the person doing that,” he said. “That’s what killed my mom, was secondhand smoke.”

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