Bill description: HB 280 would establish a penalty for individuals who smoke or vape in a vehicle with a minor present.

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Does it directly or indirectly create or increase penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes? Conversely, does it eliminate or decrease penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes?

This bill would make it a crime to smoke or vape in a motor vehicle if a minor is in the vehicle. Just like the seat belt law, HB 280 would grant law enforcement officers the authority to pull drivers over as a secondary offense for violating this new law. That is, officers could only issue a citation when the operator of the motor vehicle had been detained for a suspected violation of another law.

Several factors could make enforcement of the law difficult. First, it could be difficult for an officer to determine if a driver was smoking or vaping while in the vehicle — before entering the vehicle. The smell of smoke or vapor could be on a person before he or she gets into the car, and an e-cigarette can be turned on or off in an instant. Alcohol consumption can be visually detected by side effects or through tests, but there are no similar means to detect if someone has been smoking or vaping.

Additionally, this law could affect a teenager, legally smoking or vaping in the car, who is with friends or classmates. A 19-year-old could be cited if he has friends under 18 in the car with him.

Smoking or vaping while in a vehicle is a nonviolent activity, and penalizing the individual who is engaging in it would not protect the passengers. Any person who is cited for violating this law would face a $50 fine. Courts could also assess substantial fees on top of the fine. In the case of the seatbelt law, the court fees are more than five times greater than the actual fine itself.

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