BURLINGTON -- Want a cigarette while you’re driving with your kids in the car? Not in Vermont, which is getting ready to implement some of the nation’s strictest anti-smoking laws, including a provision that would allow police to pull over anyone seen smoking with young children in the car and fine them $100.
On Tuesday Vermont will be the seventh state in the country to ban smoking in cars carrying children and the sixth to outlaw smoking in hotel rooms.
Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen said Friday it’s hoped that the latest expansion of Vermont’s anti-smoking laws will encourage smokers to quit and protect the health of people who are around smokers, including children and hotel staff members who could be exposed to secondhand smoke.
The law comes 27 years after Vermont implemented its first anti-smoking law and 50 years after the surgeon general first ruled that smoking is dangerous. Chen estimated that since 1964 smoking has killed 20 million people in the United States.
"Tobacco is still the No. 1 killer," Chen said. "It complicates asthma, heart disease, stroke, early, unexpected sudden infant death and low birth weight in babies."
Under the new law, most of which takes effect on Tuesday, smoking will be prohibited in cars carrying children younger than 8. Drivers will be subject to fines up to $100.
Rebecca Ryan, a senior director, health education and public policy, at the American Lung Association in Vermont, said smoking was first banned in cars carrying children in Arkansas in 2006, followed by Louisiana.
Maine banned smoking in cars carrying children under age 16 in 2008. Smoking in cars with children has also been banned in Puerto Rico and some Canadian provinces.
In addition to hotel rooms, the new Vermont law will also ban smoking on all state property, on the property of hospitals or secure residential recovery facilities owned or operated by the state. It also bans tobacco products at schools and child care centers.
Vermont State Police Lt. Garry Scott, traffic safety commander, said troopers have been informed of the new law and they are ready.
"It’s going to be difficult to figure out how old the kid in the car is, but if you see a car seat in the car and the operator is smoking there’s grounds to at least stop the vehicle and they can investigate from there what’s going on in the car."
The law contains an exception for the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington, which can permit smoking in designated areas.