PHOENIX – An Arizona lawmaker has proposed making smoking in a vehicle with anyone 17 and younger a crime that can get drivers pulled over and lead to fines of $50 or more per child.
"We already protect children from child abuse," said Rep. David Schapira, who is proposing the new law, the first bill filed in the House of Representatives in anticipation of the upcoming legislative session. "I think if you are smoking in a vehicle, to me that is child abuse."
The bill pits private-property rights against the state's desire to protect children from secondhand smoke.
Similar concerns were raised about a statewide smoking ban that went into effect in April and forbids smoking in most indoor public places.
Some smokers and non-smokers said they think the idea of protecting kids is laudable, but they worry that it's a government intrusion on individual liberty.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a similar ban into law last month.
The California law goes into effect Jan. 1 and makes smoking with minors a secondary offense, which means police can enforce it only if they pull over a vehicle for another reason, like speeding. Violations carry fines of up to $100.
Louisiana and Arkansas passed forms of the ban last year.
Schapira, D-Tempe, introduced the same measure in Arizona in the past legislative session, but it went nowhere.
He said he thinks he has a better chance this time after learning the ropes at the Capitol.