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Bill banning smoking in car with young children moves through Senate

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Smokers beware: there may be one less place you can light up in the Sunshine State.

The Senate Health Policy Committee on Tuesday gave the nod to state Sen. Jeff Clemens bill that makes it illegal to smoke cigarettes in a car if there’s a child under 13 traveling in the vehicle.

The bill — SB 548 — isn’t limited to just the driver, though. Anyone who chooses to  to light up with young children in tow could be charged with a non-moving violation. According to a staff analysis the amount of fines that someone faces for violating the law will vary depending on where they live. For instance, in Leon County a non-moving violation is a $116 violation but in Miami-Dade a non-moving violation is $129.

Seven states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico already have banned smoking in vehicles that children ride in. California and Oregon ban smoking in a car with children under the age of 18 whereas Oregon bans smoking in car with children under 8.

Clemens enjoyed bipartisan support from the Senate Health Policy Committee. State Sen. Arthenia Joyner, a Democrat, says the state already has snuffed smoking in the workplace and needs to take steps to protect children.

Joyner said she “actually sheds tears” every time she sees a baby or young child in a care with a smoker.

“We have a moral responsibility to provide a safe environment for our children,” she said, supporting the bill.

State Sen. Don Gaetz, who co-sponsored the bill, agreed with Joyner. He joked that as a “probationary member of the Liberty Caucus,” he realized that the bill was “government’s hand reaching into the car of somebody who is driving their own vehicle.” But he added that children are strapped-in passengers who cannot leave the vehicle and the adverse risks of second- hand smoke are too strong to ignore.

“Even those of us who have strong aversions to the hand of government lying heavy on free choice  ….  have to support this bill.”

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