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Bangor Makes It Illegal to Smoke in Cars

Associated Press | January 9, 2007

The Bangor City Council approved a measure Monday that prohibits people from smoking in vehicles when children are present.

When the law goes into effect next week, Bangor will become the first municipality in Maine to have such a law. Similar statewide measures have been adopted in Arkansas and Louisiana and are under consideration in several other states.

People who smoke with children present in the confined space of a car or truck might as well be deliberately trying to kill those children, said City Councilor Patricia Blanchette, who is a smoker.

"Let's step up to the plate and lead; our children are worth the fight," she said.

The ordinance, which was approved by a 6-3 vote, applies to any motor vehicles on any public roads within the city. Violators face fines of up to $50.

An amendment that was added Monday to the original proposal makes the violation a primary offense, rather than a secondary offense. That means police can pull over vehicles if they see somebody smoking with anybody under 18 in the vehicle; if it were a secondary offense, police would have to stop the vehicle for some other reason, such as speeding.

Several residents, doctors and representatives from the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce and the Fusion Bangor development group spoke in favor of the ordinance.

Pediatrician Robert Holmberg said the evidence is "incontrovertible" that exposure to cigarette smoke causes medical disorders in children, including asthma, bronchitis, ear infections and heart disease.

"Children are the most in need of the protection by public policy, because they can't protect themselves," he said.

But the ordinance also had its critics.

Councilor Susan Hawes, who voted against the law, said the police department should devote its energy to more important issues. There's already too much government intervention in people's lives, she said.

Aaron Prill of Bangor told the council that the ordinance was a "feel- good option" that was not intended to protect children but rather to "moralize" against smokers. Most smokers have enough common sense not to smoke around children, he said.

 

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