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Published January 21, 2011, 04:37 PM

Students Tell North Dakota Lawmakers to Ban Smoking in Cars

North Dakota students and tobacco-free supporters gave state lawmakers an hour’s worth of reasons today as to why they should outlaw smoking with kids in the car.

By: Teri Finneman, Associated Press

BISMARCK — North Dakota students and tobacco-free supporters gave state lawmakers an hour’s worth of reasons today as to why they should outlaw smoking with kids in the car.

More than a dozen Williston and Bismarck students attended the hearing to show their support for House Bill 1150.

The bill would ban smoking in vehicles if children younger than 13 are present, even if a window is rolled down. The proposed fine is $50.

Several students talked about their health problems from secondhand smoke or presented research on the topic.

From the age of zero to 5, children can inhale 102 packs of cigarettes from secondhand smoke, said Austin Anderson, a freshman at Williston High School.

“What choice does this child have? We buckle them in a car seat for safety. Put a blanket over their heads so they don’t breathe in cold air. Yet we expose them to deadly toxins,” he said.

Williston High School freshman Hailey Bendixson spoke of growing up around secondhand smoke and the related health problems that caused her to miss school.

She told lawmakers that other states like Arkansas, Louisiana and California have passed similar laws banning smoking with kids in the car.

“Please remember, it is the parents’ idea to smoke in the car with children present, not the children’s,” Bendixson said. “I encourage you to lend your support and vote yes on this bill.”

The bill previously failed with an age limit of 16. Supporters decided to try the bill again this session with an age of 13.

Bismarck PE/health teacher Amy Heuer brought students from a tobacco-free student group who wanted to support the bill.

“Our kids do want smoke-free cars. And it’s not teachers that are telling them that. It’s not health people that are saying, “Hey, you need to do this.” The kids want to breathe smoke-free air in vehicles,” she said.

No one testified against the bill today, though a few lawmakers have expressed doubts that it will pass.

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Gary Sukut, R-Williston, said some lawmakers have spoken against legislating common sense.

“But you know what? We do,” Sukut said, pointing to seat belt and helmet laws. “We pass common sense things to protect ourselves against our own ignorance, I guess we’d have to say.”

The bill would not break new ground, and the pros outweigh the cons, he said.

“If you don’t believe there’s potential harm there from secondhand smoke, then you haven’t listened because I think there’s plenty of facts that have been put out this morning,” Sukut told his fellow lawmakers.

The House Transportation Committee did not take immediate action on the bill.

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