It appears that policemen will have to order an additional set of eyes to view these new infractions.
BANGOR, Me. — Tonya Henderson will have to be more careful where she lights up her Marlboros.
Bangor is banning smoking in cars if children are present, and Ms. Henderson, 24, is accustomed to having a cigarette when her boyfriend’s 7-year-old daughter is in the back seat.
She is just the kind of person City Council members had in mind when they passed the ordinance, which has delighted some and angered others and prompted complaints about invasion of privacy and even threats to boycott the city, Maine’s second-largest. The ordinance, which takes effect on Jan. 19, allows the police to stop cars if an adult is smoking while a child under 18 is a passenger. The smoker can be fined $50.
“I’ve heard people say it’s the smoke police or the Gestapo,” said Mayor Richard D. Greene, a pack-a-day smoker who says he shields his two children from his cigarette fumes. “I think it boils down to common sense: smoking is not good for you. Certainly if you have young children who are in the process of developing and growing, it’s even worse for them. You wouldn’t say, ‘Hey, here’s a bottle of mercury. Go bob it around.’ ”
Bangor is believed to be the first city to outlaw smoking in cars with children. But Arkansas, Louisiana and Puerto Rico recently enacted similar bans, and at least three other states are considering them: California, Connecticut and Maine, where proponents hope the Bangor ban will be a catalyst for a state law.
The laws, experts say, are part of a new frontier of cigarette regulation: moving beyond smoking bans in public settings like restaurants to crackdowns in private spheres like cars and, in some cases, homes.
At least seven states, including several with large numbers of smokers like Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska, prohibit or sharply restrict smoking around foster children in homes, cars or both. Some require homes or cars to be smoke-free for 12 hours before a foster child enters.
Judges determining parental custody and visitation have, in more than a dozen states, ordered a parent not to smoke around a child. An Ohio court last year gave custody of a 6-year-old boy to his father solely because the boy’s mother and her fiancé smoked.
Tenants in apartments have won several recent efforts to get smoke-free buildings or areas, or curtail secondhand smoke from neighboring apartments. In August, after requests from residents in Michigan, First Centrum Communities, which has housing complexes for the elderly in six states, made all its buildings smoke-free. A recent ruling in a New York case said landlords who allow tenants to be exposed to secondhand smoke could be violating obligations to make apartments habitable.
“I think because we have so affirmatively dealt with public places being smoke-free, it has simply made people think about places that are less public,” said Kathleen Dachille, director of Center for Tobacco Regulation at the University of Maryland. “If a worker in a bar is entitled to protection from secondhand smoke, how can we ignore what is happening to children?”
Gary Nolan, a spokesman for the pro-smoker’s group, The Smoker’s Club, said such bans and court decisions were based on “junk science.”
“At some point these busybodies have to stop,” Mr. Nolan said. “If we can give our rights up to personal property, the nose of the camel is in the tent and there’s no telling how far we can go. I’m telling you the high-fat craze is next.”
With most of the wave of smoking bans being so new, early enforcement has generally involved warnings, a tactic Bangor will start with, along with a radio campaign. Proponents hope the mere existence of such laws causes people to curb smoking.
The efforts have gained steam from a 2006 surgeon general’s report that strongly indicted secondhand smoke, especially for harming children. While the antismoking movement is clearly supportive, many private-sphere efforts have come from individuals.
In Connecticut, a ban on smoking in cars just introduced in the legislature was the brainchild of Justin Kvadas of East Hartford, who was 9 and riding home from his Tae Kwon Do class last year when the idea struck him.
“It came to me, if you can’t drink or talk on the cellphone while driving, how come you can still smoke?” said Justin, now 10, whose father stopped smoking when he was born. His mother helped him e-mail his state representative, Henry Genga, and he collected 200 petition signatures, including from classmates and East Hartford’s mayor. “It’s bad if a baby gets dropped off at a day care and smells like cigarettes. It’s also bad for their lungs because their lungs are so small.”
In Arkansas, a seemingly unlikely place for a ban given its high smoking rate, the law passed overwhelmingly after being introduced by Representative Bob Mathis, who said, “Some people didn’t vote because they thought Mathis was pulling a joke.”
The law, which concerns children under 6, levies a $25 fine that can be waived if the smoker enrolls in cessation classes.
“If parents are smoking in the car, you know darn well they’re probably smoking in the house, and this law might be the only opportunity for that little child to have a breath of fresh air,” said Mr. Mathis, who quit smoking two years ago.
In Bangor, a city of 33,000 in the heart of rural Maine, the ban, proposed by a pediatric dentist and passed by a 6-to-3 vote, has ignited a flurry of reaction, not necessarily along predictable lines.
At least two council members who supported it smoke, including Patricia Blanchette, who strengthened the original proposal, which would have prevented police officers from stopping cars solely for the smoking violation.
“I am tired as a taxpayer of paying for people to take their children to the emergency room because they’ve had an asthma attack,” said Ms. Blanchette, who believes her smoking caused her son’s bronchitis. “Why are we taking these very, very fragile little bodies, putting them in a confined area and allowing people to blow smoke into their lungs?”
Another council member, Susan Hawes, a nonsmoker who is a medical assistant, opposed it. “We have so many people telling us what we can and cannot do in our own lives,” Ms. Hawes said. “Are we going to come back and say, ‘If you don’t get your child out there once a week to exercise ...’ ”
Among residents, Denise Savoy, a nonsmoker whose father smoked five packs a day and died of emphysema at age 78, opposes the ban, unconvinced of the health risks.
“Doctors are trying to say all these kids have asthma, ear infections,” Ms. Savoy said. “You know what — I had one ear infection in my life. My kids spent a lot of time around my dad, and my oldest two children had lots of ear infections and tubes in their ears, but my youngest two had none of it. My father was fine until about the last year and half of his life.”
She also worries that smokers might have withdrawal symptoms while driving and cause accidents.
Her oldest son, Chris Goldsmith, 22, said, “Probably health would go down even more if you ban it in cars because you’re going to have a lot more people smoking in the house. And, you’ve got a lot of smokers in the U.S. and this is going to keep them from coming here.”
Some nonsmokers, too, perhaps.
“I’ll just do my business elsewhere,” said Steward Atwood of Machias, who quit smoking 10 years ago and regularly shops in Bangor. “It’s a right being taken away from people.”
Still, the ban, which was endorsed by the Bangor Chamber of Commerce, was welcomed by many, who believe that any boycott of Bangor will be minimal.
Mary Gilmartin said it would help her protect her 9-year-old asthmatic grandson from friends and relatives who “just light up and they don’t ask.”
Lana Fields, 20, who smokes, but not in the car with her 1-year-old, called it “a good law.”
And Ms. Henderson, who has smoked since age 7 but believes cigarettes aggravate her epilepsy and diabetes, had a foot in both camps.
“Hate it,” Ms. Henderson said about the law. “But it’s good for the kids.”