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Arkansas Law Targets Smokers Driving with Kids

Ban, Fines Start Monday

June 26, 2011|Mary Moloney, Kuba Wuls | Reporter, Photographer

Harrison, AR — Attention smokers! Starting Monday, all Arkansas drivers will not be able to smoke if there are passengers under 14 years old. The change updates a so-called Nanny law already on the books that bans smoking with people under the age of 6 in the vehicle.

"Praise the Lord! I'm glad! It's about time somebody done something like that," explained Mary Jo Coffman who has 4 grandchildren under the age of 14.

Not everyone is sharing Coffman's excitement.

"I think it's ridiculous," said Gabby Massey, a smoker. "14-year-olds these days, most of them smoke now, so it would be pointless."

Arkansas legislators said the new ban will protect roughly 78 percent of children in the state who may be exposed to the dangers of second-hand smoke.

"I'm concerned about the children in a confined place and second hand smoke," said Coffman, a nurse in Harrison. "And they usually have asthma or some kind of other allergies."

Yet some smokers feel the debate is not on childhood safety, but about personal property.

"It's your vehicle, it's your property," said Massey. "You can do what you want in your own property."

If drivers do choose to smoke with kids in the car, police will issue a $100 fine.

For Jacquelyn Akins, a non-smoking mother of two kids, protecting her children is worth the extra restriction.

"I have Dawson that is three, Delsey that is almost 10 months, " the proud mother said smiling. "And I am very glad that they aren't around a lot of cigarette smoke."

Police officers said they will be aggressive enforcing the new ban and even people with out of state plates should be aware of the law.

This isn't the first time Arkansas passed anti-smoking laws. The state already bans smoking in all restaurants and other workplaces.

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