A new law in Alabama bans smoking and vaping inside vehicles carrying passengers under 14 years old. The law, which took effect Tuesday, applies to all smoking products and does not allow exceptions for open windows.
State Rep. Rolanda Hollis, D-Birmingham, championed the law for six years before its recent passage. She was inspired after refusing to ride in a smoke-filled truck.
“I thought, what if it was a kid in the car unable to jump in and out?” said Hollis. “Help our children in Alabama live healthier lives without issues suffered from secondhand smoke.”
Violations are a secondary offense. Drivers can receive up to a $100 fine if pulled over for another reason and police have probable cause they were smoking with a minor present.
Children exposed to secondhand smoke face more ear infections, colds, respiratory issues, and even sudden infant death syndrome according to Dr. Karen Landers of the Alabama Department of Public Health. She adds smoking in a confined vehicle intensifies the risks.
“You’ve got increased particles in a small space that kids are forced to breathe,” explained Landers. “The car compounds the issue because infants can’t escape that environment.”
Landers advises smokers to quit altogether. “Do it for your family’s health so they can see you live a longer, healthier life.”
Proponents hope the ban reduces secondhand smoke exposure for Alabama’s youth. But critics argue it will be difficult to enforce and raises civil liberties concerns.
Similar laws have passed in other states like Arkansas, Louisiana, California, Oregon and more. The goal is protecting child health, but impacts on actual smoking rates remain unclear.