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Columbus Dispatch...
Bill would restrict smoking in cars  
February 5, 2012 

Arguing that a child has no way to escape the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, a Columbus Democrat told a Senate committee yesterday that it’s time for Ohio to ban smoking in vehicles with passengers younger than 6. 

“Smoking is especially dangerous in cars because the toxic air is much more concentrated and smoke fumes in vehicles pose a greater risk for children,” said Sen. Charleta B. Tavares, the bill sponsor. 

The bill likely will get more hearings, and the committee chairman, Sen. Tom Patton, R-Strongsville, said he supports the idea. 

However, a separate bill that would ban texting while driving could be indefinitely stuck in the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee, with concerns from Patton and Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, about enforceability. 

Thirty-three states have passed texting-while-driving bans, and House Bill 99 passed the House overwhelmingly in June. But it has not moved in the Senate, and after Senate Republicans talked privately yesterday, Niehaus said that members raised questions and the bill is “going to remain in committee for the time being.” 

“How do you tell the difference between someone who is texting versus someone who is entering a phone number?” Niehaus said. “It’s going to stay in committee until the proponents are able to convince enough members that changes are needed. There is no urgency.” 

Patton said the bill would continue to be vetted. 

“It’s impossible, I think, for someone to determine if someone is texting or GPSing or dialing,” he said. “The grave concern of mine is enforcement.” 

Patton said he is “pretty much in favor” of the bill banning smoking in vehicles when young children are riding, but he wonders how an officer will know whether a child is age 5, 6 or 7. 

“But I think someone that young should be protected,” he said. 

As a Columbus city councilwoman in 2004, Tavares successfully pushed for a ban on smoking in public places, two years prior to enactment of the statewide ban. 

Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Fairlawn, said he was “intrigued” by the bill and would like to work with Tavares on it. He and others on the committee said it should also include a public education component so that parents understand the dangers of smoking with a child in the vehicle. 

LaRose said the bill is likely to run into opposition from members who see it as infringing on personal freedom — an ideal that seems especially strong among some lawmakers when it involves vehicles. 

“Your freedom to act ends when it impacts another person’s health, especially a child,” he said. 

Marie Collart, president of the Breathing Association, a Columbus-based group that promotes lung health and preventing lung disease, said secondhand smoke can trigger asthmatic conditions and cause other problems, such as earaches. She noted that her own dad smoked, and she grew up suffering intense earaches. 

“It certainly is not good for the developing lungs of a child,” Collart said.

 “I have seen children in smoke-filled cars, and your heart just goes out to the child, who is trapped,” she added. “We’re in a society that does not tolerate child abuse. Far as I’m concerned, this is a form of child abuse.” 

Read this and other articles at the Columbus Dispatch

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