Medical Reading

New "Smoke-Free Cars With Minors" Law Protects California's Children From Secondhand Smoke In Cars

September 04, 2017

Los Angeles-California state health officials commemorates the ten-year anniversary of smoke-free bars in California and highlighted a new law that protects Californians against the danger of secondhand smoke. The "Smoke-free Cars with Minors" law, which took effect January 1, bans smoking in a car carrying a minor.

"Our efforts to address the dangers of secondhand smoke in California began over a decade ago," said Kimberly Belshé, Secretary of California's Health and Human Services Agency. "Today, our state continues to be a leader by ensuring that children and youth traveling in cars are not exposed to secondhand smoke."

California's "Smoke-free Cars with Minors" law, authored by Senator Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, prohibits smoking in a motor vehicle when a minor (17 years old and under) is present. A violation is punishable by a fine of up to $100.

"Infants and children are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke," said Dr. Mark Horton, Director of the California Department of Public Health. "Smoking in a car, or any confined space, increases the level of pollution inhaled by children and adults, thereby increasing the likelihood of suffering from the negative health effects of secondhand smoke."

Studies of secondhand smoke exposure have shown that levels of secondhand smoke caused by one person smoking in a car can make the air inside the vehicle up to 10 times more toxic than the level the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says is hazardous for breathing.

Evidence suggests that children are especially vulnerable to the health effects caused by secondhand smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke by children increases the risk of asthma attacks, ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia. Long-term exposure also has been linked to heart disease and lung cancer in adults.

California's leadership and commitment to protecting residents from secondhand smoke began in 1994 with the passage of California's Law for a Smoke-free Workplace. The smoke-free bar provision of this law took effect in January 1998.

California's public health policies are major contributing factors to the state's low smoking rates. California also has the lowest cigarette consumption per capita in the U.S. and serves as a model for other states and countries.

The California Department of Public Health's Tobacco Control Program is the nation's longest running and most comprehensive anti-tobacco program. More information about the "Smoke-free Cars with Minors" law and the state's tobacco control efforts is available here.

California Department of Public Health