SPRINGFIELD — A state lawmaker wants to make smoking in a car while riding with minors a punishable offense.
A recent proposal would allow police to write tickets for up to $100 for smoking in a car with a passenger under the age of 18.
Kathy Drea, a lobbyist for the American Lung Association, testified before a state senate committee on Tuesday that children face a much higher risk of serious medical issues stemming from inhalation of secondhand smoke.
"Because children breathe more rapidly than adults, they inhale more harmful chemicals per pound of their weight than adults do in the same amount of time," she said. "Children are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke exposure in small, confined spaces, such as cars."
Smoke inhalation among children, she said, can lead to middle ear infections, asthma episodes, bronchitis, pneumonia, sudden infant death syndrome and the development of heart disease and lung cancer.
State Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, who sponsors the legislation, said that officers wouldn't be able to pull drivers over just for committing this offense. Once pulled over for something else, however, officers could issue a ticket for smoking.
He said the proposal was a rare opportunity for the legislature to prevent a tragedy, rather than just respond to one.
"It's very rare that we try to do something proactive," he said. "I don't know what the future has, but I'm trying to be proactive to prevent a child from getting cancer, or anyone else getting sick. I think that's part of our job."
Drea added that the plan obviously wouldn't put an end to all smoke-related health issues, but that it would help.
"There is no one silver bullet to reduce tobacco use," she said. "It's going to take many efforts and programs at all different levels to reduce the tobacco prevalence rates among youths and adults.
"This is just one very simple thing that we can do right now to protect our children."
The legislation is Senate Bill 2659.