By Bob Katzen

The Public Health Committee held a hearing on a measure that would prohibit smoking in any motor vehicle in which there is a child who is required to be in a child passenger restraint. Under Massachusetts law, children must use a restraint until they are at least eight years old or at least 57 inches tall. The measure imposes a $100 fine on drivers who violate the ban.

The proposal prohibits a police officer from searching a motor vehicle, its contents, the driver or a passenger solely because of a violation of this law. It also prohibits the violation from being used as evidence of contributory negligence by the driver in any civil action and requires officers, for 90 days after the law is in effect, to give only a warning and not a citation to a driver who violates this law.

Supporters say that second-hand smoke causes respiratory problems, ear infections and mental health disorders including depression. They note it can also make a child’s asthma worse.

Some opponents say this is another example of unnecessary government intrusion into people’s lives. Others ask why this arbitrary bill doesn’t protect children older than eight or taller than 57 inches.

SMOKING – The Public Health Committee’s agenda included a bill to prohibit smoking in all private residences except single-family detached homes.

Another proposal would ban the sale of cigarettes in all retail stores except in adult-only retail tobacco stores that prohibit anyone under 21 from entering. The store’s primary purpose must be to sell tobacco products and tobacco paraphernalia, and the sale of other products must be merely incidental. The bill also allows the sale of tobacco in smoking bars.

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