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Senator James Beach addresses his new colleagues in the Legislature.

Legislation Dedicates Penalties to Smoking Cessation Fund

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator James Beach and Senator Joseph Vitale prohibiting smoking in a motor vehicle when a child under 16 years of age is present was approved by the Senate Health Committee today.

The bill, a Senate Committee Substitute for S-828/S-2883, would prohibit smoking cigars, cigarettes, pipes, e-cigarettes, and any other smoking devices in the presence of children in motor vehicles to protect passengers from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

“The harmful effects of secondhand smoke, particularly to children, are well-documented and include higher risks of developing lower respiratory tract infections, asthma and wheezing, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome,” said Senator Beach, D-Burlington and Camden. “Studies from around the world have shown significant decreases in hospital admissions for childhood asthma following smoking bans in public places. It only makes sense to follow the lead of other countries and states which offer these protections to children in vehicles and aim to reduce their exposure to the dangerous toxins inhaled through passive smoking.”

Under the bill, a violation would be a secondary offense punishable with a $100 fine, but would not result in any motor vehicle points or auto insurance eligibility points assessed against any person in violation. Furthermore, the violation would not result in a surcharge under the New Jersey Merit Rating Plan.

The bill would also establish the “Smoking Cessation Fund” within the Department of Health and Senior Services, and would dedicate proceeds collected from penalties pursuant to this bill for smoking cessation programs in the State.

“Our goal with this measure is to encourage healthier lifestyles and to protect children from secondhand smoke and tobacco products which, in confined spaces, can have devastating consequences on their health,” said Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Chairman Vitale, D-Middlesex. “An adult has the choice of riding or not riding in a car with a smoker, but a child does not. By banning smoking in vehicles where children are present, we are ensuring that adults are acting responsibly and protecting the right of every child to grow and thrive in a safe and healthy environment.”

The bill would require the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission to establish a public awareness campaign to inform the public about the provisions of the bill.

Smoking bans in private vehicles exist in many other states, including Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon, Utah, and Vermont. Local governments in Hawaii, Indiana, New York, Alabama, and New Jersey have also enacted bans.

The bill was released from the Senate Health Committee with a vote of 8-0 and now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration.