Starting Wednesday, smoking will be illegal in any vehicle carrying children under age 14, according to Arkansas state law.
Following the 88th General Assembly of the Arkansas Senate, the change is being enacted in the law regarding smoking in cars with children. Prior to the 2011 law, smoking was prohibited in vehicles carrying children ages 6 and under. But with the new action, that age has been raised to 14.
The law now reads that "smoking is prohibited in any motor vehicle in which a child who is less than 14 years of age is a passenger."
According to information from the Arkansas Cancer Coalition and the Tobacco Control Youth Board, the law is aimed at the protection of children, because there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke, and smoking causes more than 400,000 cases of severe asthma in children every year.
Elroy Brown, chairman and coordinator of the Mississippi County Coalition For A Tobacco-Free Arkansas, said the group is pleased with the action taken by the Senate, but wishes to continue pushing for tighter regulation.
"As pleased as we are about the new laws raising the age from 6 to 14, we will still be pushing to see the age raised to 18," he said. "Many teenagers are still vulnerable to exposure under this law, and we like to see it raised, but we are thankful to see this move."
Blytheville Police Chief Ross Thompson said smoking in a vehicle with children under the age of 14 is now considered a primary offense, which means that a vehicle can be pulled over and the driver ticketed for a violation. BPD officers have already begun issuing warnings and are on the lookout for offenders, as the law takes effect on July 27. After that date, violators must pay a $25 fine on their first offense, unless they can prove enrollment in a program to quit smoking.