New Law Takes Effect January 1, 2008
No more smoking in cars with children present
By Ross Porter, Communications Director, American Lung Association of San Diego California
The California legislature passed the law in response to compelling scientific evidence that smoking in cars exposes passengers, especially children, to high levels of toxic secondhand smoke. The law prohibits smoking in a motor vehicle (stationary or moving) in which a youth under the age of 18 is present. A violation is punishable by a fine of up to $100 and categorized as a secondary offense, meaning an officer may not pull over a vehicle for the sole purpose of checking if someone is smoking with a minor present.
According to the 2006 Surgeon General’s Report, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Peak levels of secondhand smoke from smoking in a car can be up to 10 times greater than the level which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers hazardous, according to a study recently published by a team of environmental scientists from Stanford University.
“Passengers, especially youth, are exposed to dangerous levels of toxic air contaminants when someone is smoking in a car,” said Debra Kelley, Senior Director of Government Relations for the San Diego Office of the American Lung Association of California. “Fortunately California leads the world in creating healthier, smoke-free environments for its citizens, and we are pleased that the 745,182 youth in San Diego County will benefit from this vital new health protection.”
The County of San Diego’s popular Cigarette Litter Hotline (1-800-No-Smoke) receives more than 1,000 calls a month from irate citizens who witness cigarette butts being tossed out of car windows. Health advocates believe that the new law will result in fewer cigarettes being smoked in cars and fewer cigarette butts being tossed. If so, cigarette litter will be reduced and the risk of wildfires diminished.
While smoking has declined dramatically in California, there are still four million people in the state who smoke, including 328,250 in San Diego County. Now is the time for a New Year’s Resolution to quit smoking. For people who want to quit smoking, the American Lung Association offers free online support through its “Freedom From Smoking” program at: www.lungusa.org. The California Smokers Helpline is another free quit-smoking resource at 800-NO-BUTTS. Based in San Diego, 800-NO-BUTTS serves callers throughout the state with information and referral on proven methods to quit smoking.
To help motivate smokers to quit, the American Lung Association will be launching a new Public Service Announcement from filmmaker Wagner Portocarrero, called “Smoking Frustrations.” The PSA, which Portocarrero created and donated to the American Lung Association of California, will be used nationwide, ends with the tagline “Find your Freedom From Smoking” and encourages people to quit smoking through the association’s Freedom From Smoking® program.
(To view “Smoking Frustrations,” visit http://www.californialung.org/spotlight/video.html and scroll down below the Carol Burnett PSA.)
In the New Year, the American Lung Association will release its annual report card on the efforts of each state to prevent smoking and promote smoke-free environments in its State of Tobacco Control Report.
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