Massachusetts Has Tried Many Times to Make It Illegal to Smoke in a Car With Kids
People in Massachusetts are well aware of the dangers of secondhand cigarette smoke, but that doesn’t stop adults from smoking in motor vehicles with children in the car.
However, Massachusetts lawmakers have long been attempting to make that illegal – including by a state representative who now serves as Bristol County’s sheriff.
Massachusetts banned smoking in all workplaces, restaurants and bars in 2004. While people still had the freedom to smoke in their own homes or vehicles, lawmakers became concerned that children were sitting in the confined spaces of a vehicle while inhaling secondhand smoke.
According to TheFW.com, there is only one state – Delaware – that has banned smoking in a car with children, and it only did it this past September.
Meanwhile, it’s been something that has been proposed in the Massachusetts State House a number of times, but has never made it into law in the Bay State.
It was proposed by current Bristol County Sheriff and then-State Representative Paul Heroux back in 2013, and would have imposed a $100 fine on any adult caught smoking in a vehicle with a child also in the vehicle.
It was known as “An Act to Protect Little Lungs,” and it was co-sponsored by Reps. Mary Keefe (D-Worcester), Thomas Sannicandro (D-Ashland) and Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge). The bill defined “child” as someone young enough to be required to be “secured by a child passenger restraint.”
Even then, Heroux admitted the proposed law would be difficult to enforce.
Heroux re-submitted the bill in 2017, and again it failed to be passed into law. When he left the State House in 2018 to become Mayor of Attleboro, other lawmakers picked up the mantle on “An Act to Protect Little Lungs” and it was again proposed in 2019 and 2021 but continued to fall short.
It was most recently brought before the current session by Rep. James K. Hawkins of the 2nd Bristol, the district Heroux represented when he first proposed the law in 2013.
The current version is Bill H.2191 and retains the same framework of Heroux’s originally proposed legislation: the $100 fine, the definition of “child,” and the fact that “a law enforcement officer may not search or inspect a motor vehicle, its contents, the driver, or a passenger solely because of a violation of this section.”
Back in February of this year, it was referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health and had a hearing scheduled for November 3, but it’s still a long way off from being signed into law – if it ever happens at all.
Classic Cigarette Vending Machines
Gallery Credit: Tommy Carroll