TRENTON – Senator Raymond J. Lesniak today announced efforts to prohibit smoking while in a car with a minor, in an attempt to protect kids from second-hand smoke in enclosed areas.
“Many parents who are smokers have the presence of mind to not expose their children to the dangerous toxins associated with second-hand smoke,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “We know for a fact that second-hand smoke contributes to heart disease, respiratory illness, and cancer, and responsible parents should try to limit their kids’ exposure, even if they themselves aren’t ready to quit. It seems like common sense that parents should avoid lighting up when they’ve got their kids in the car, and this law will stand to enforce that common sense.”
Senator Lesniak’s bill would amend the current statute regarding child endangerment to prescribe criminal penalties for smoking in a motor vehicle in which there is a child, defined in the legislation as anyone under the age of 16. Under the bill, a person would be charged with a petty disorderly persons offense, punishable by a jail term of up to 30 days, or a fine of up to $500, or both, for a first offense. A person would be charged with a disorderly persons offense for subsequent offenses, with penalties ranging from a jail term of up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
“While these penalties are harsh, they’re a drop in the bucket when compared against the life-long health problems associated with prolonged exposure to second-hand smoke or nicotine addiction,” said Senator Lesniak. “In their developing years, children breathe nearly twice as often as adults, doubling their exposure to the carcinogens and toxins in cigarette smoke. And, as we’ve seen so often with the children of smokers, nicotine addiction is something that can be learned upon watching a parent who smokes in front of their kids.”
Senator Lesniak noted that the idea for the bill came to him while driving recently in the Garden State. In the lane next to him, a mother and two children sat in their motor vehicle, windows rolled up, with a cloud of cigarette smoke thick enough to be visible from Senator Lesniak’s car.
“When we were stopped at a red light, I could actually see how thick the smoke was in this car, and how dangerous it was for these kids to be in that environment,” said Senator Lesniak. “I know that such reckless behavior is more the exception than the rule, and that many parents put the health of their kids on a pedestal. But we need strong penalties, and a strong message, that endangering your kids with second-hand smoke cannot be tolerated.”
The bill will be introduced during the Senate Session on Monday.