Hoping to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, and other childhood illnesses linked to secondhand smoke exposure, Ohio lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it illegal to smoke in vehicles when young children are present.
Some local residents say the bill, recently introduced into the Ohio Senate, is too invasive, while others say it doesn't go far enough because it would only protect children who are younger than 6.
Anthony Azzi, 21, of Marietta, said he smokes, but that he would never smoke with a child in the car.
"It should be illegal to smoke with children in a car with you," he said. "But if they're going to do this, they should look out for kids until they're at least 16...At that age, they should have the ability to drive themselves or commute some other way."
Kim Reinhold, of Cincinnati, was in Marietta visiting family on Monday. She said the proposed bill seems invasive, but that she would probably be in favor of such a law.
"It does seem over-reaching at first, but I would like to think a parent would think of their child first," she said. "I always thought of my children first and myself second. That's what a good parent does."
At a glance
Each year in the U.S., secondhand smoke is responsible for:
An estimated 46,000 deaths from heart disease in people who are current non-smokers.
About 3,400 non-smoking adults die of lung cancer as a result of breathing secondhand smoke.
Worse asthma and asthma -related problems in up to 1 million asthmatic children.
Between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in children under 18 months of age, and lung infections resulting in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations each year.
Source: American Cancer Society.
Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, said the bill seems well-intended but that he has concerns. He said the bill could be a slippery slope toward more laws that could affect personal choices.
"I don't know if we want to get into the business of reaching into the private lives of our citizens," he said. "My initial reaction is that this is an over-reach...And where does it stop after you start down that path?"
The sponsor of the bill, Democratic Sen. Charleta Tavares, of Columbus, told The Associated Press the goal of the bill is to protect children from secondhand smoke.
According to the National Cancer Institute, exposure to secondhand smoke irritates the airways and has immediate harmful effects on a person's heart and blood vessels, and increases the risk of heart disease by an estimated 25 to 30 percent.
Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, and more severe asthma. Being exposed to secondhand smoke slows the growth of children's lungs and can cause them to cough, wheeze, and feel breathless, according to the cancer institute.
Ohio Sen. Troy Balderson, whose district includes Washington County, did not return a message seeking comment.
Corey McClung, 11, of Williamstown, said he hoped the bill would pass in Ohio and eventually become a national law.
"Secondhand smoke is just as bad as breathing in a cigarette," he said. "When you're in a car, there's no escape."
According to Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, it is currently illegal in four states to smoke with children present in a car. Those states are Maine, California, Louisiana and Arkansas.
Arkansas protects children younger than 6, while the other states make it illegal to smoke in the vehicle when pre-teens are present.