House File 2093 advanced through subcommittee on Tuesday morning. The bill would prohibit a person from smoking in a motor vehicle if a person under 18 is present in the vehicle. It applies to vaping as well.
It will be classified as a secondary offense, meaning an officer cannot stop or detain someone solely for a suspected violation.
The scheduled fine will be $200.
Doug Struyk of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network said his group is registered undecided but did assist in working through the bill with Rep. Brian Lohse.
Mike Triplett of Iowans For Alternative To Smoking And Tobacco and Vapor Technology Association said the groups are opposed to the legislation.
“Honestly we have no qualms with the underlying premise of the bill if you legislators feel that you think this is a wise use of state resources,” he said. “Our problem is with the definition of smoke. Smoke includes vapor. We think vapor should be removed or specifically defined as something separate.”
Chaney Yeast of Blank Children’s Hospital said the bill aligns with what their medical providers give for guidance to parents about smoking or vaping in a confined area.
“We know that that’s hazardous for children’s health,” she said. “We really like the fact that the bill includes cigarettes and defining vapor as smoking.”
Threase Harms of CAFE Iowa Citizen’s Action Network (Clean Air for Everyone) said there are eight states that regulate smoking in cars in some fashion or another.
“It’s important to note exposure to secondhand smoke in the car actually can be more brutal and more dangerous than in the home or in smoke-filled bars,” she said.
When smoking was banned in other places in 2008, this was a discussion but was not included.
“I think we’re much further in our technology and on the dangers of secondhand smoke today,” Harms said. “There are a lot of children’s health issues that come with secondhand smoke — SIDS, asthma, bronchitis — we support this and we’d ask you to move it forward including the vapor language.”
Lohse spoke about the bill he filed. He said it came from a constituent.
“I’ll be honest, I did not realize this was not currently the law,” he said. “One of the things I’ve always found distressing is a parent or an adult smoking in a car with a child.”
He said two or three weeks ago he walked out of his store and saw a couple smoking in the car with three children all in car seats, “who didn’t have a choice to be there.”
“They were held captive there and subjected to this,” Lohse said. “It’s just something I agree with my constituent on. This is something that shouldn’t go on. Parents should know better by now and clearly they have not learned their lesson. If we’re going to protect life, we need to protect these lives as well as these young people. It’s a good issue and a good bill that we need to have in state law.”
Rep. Mary Wolfe asked if there would be an exception for a parent in a convertible or if a window is open.
“I have a little concern about that,” she said. “I also think the enforcement would be difficult.”
Wolfe speculated that having the violation be a secondary offense signals in a year or two it could become a primary offense.
“It’s a $200 fine,” she said. “So, you fine someone, what did they learn out of that? They’re probably not going to pay it. It might trigger a loss of their license. Now they’re driving kids around in a car that doesn’t have insurance and they aren’t licensed. I do appreciate the philosophy behind it, but I think it would need a little work before I’d be comfortable signing off.”
Rep. Chris Hagenow said he is supportive of trying to find a way to get the ball rolling. Rep. Jon Jacobsen also supported advancing the bill.