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Should Wisconsin Ban Smoking in Cars, When Children are Present?


A few states have passed such legislation, now Democratic Rep. Mandela Barnes says he wants Wisconsin to protect children's health.

Barnes is circulating a bill that would fine smokers $25 for their first offense and $50 for additional violations. "We just want them (children) to breathe clean air, especially around the people who are supposed to be taking care of them," Barnes says.

One person who doesn't like the idea is Corey Korth, a Hales Corners resident, smoker and dad. He says he occasionally lights up around kids, at home and in the car and it should not be up to lawmakers to decide whether he does so. "When it's your private property or something that belongs to you, it just, it's too much control. As an American citizen who pays taxes and works, you should have the right to make a choice," Korth says.

One state that has enacted such a ban is Arkansas. Debbie Rushing, who works for its Dept. of Health, says Arkansas easily outlawed smoking with children in the car. In 2006, the ban covered only young kids but was expanded in 2011 to cover older children. "The fact that so many kids in Arkansas are diagnosed with asthma, middle-ear infections and other second-hand smoke related illnesses, there really wasn't a whole lot of debate," Rushing says.

As for how the Arkansas law has been working, Rushing says it has mainly raised awareness of the dangers of second hand smoke to children. "What you see, are a lot of parents who are in the parking lot of the mall or department store who are smoking a cigarette before getting into the car. You see a lot of that. In regards to tickets being written, there's not a whole lot of that but, there are communities that really do a lot of education around this with their law enforcement," Rushing says.

Rushing says police stop drivers for smoking with children present and inform them of the dangers. If the driver agrees to contact Arkansas’ quit smoking phone line, officers do not issue a ticket.

In Wisconsin, Friday is the deadline for legislators to sign onto Rep. Barnes' proposal.