BANGOR - The city has an ordinance against smoking in a car while a child is present. Now, a legislator from Bangor is proposing a state law that would impose the same restriction, putting Maine among the first states to do so.
Representative Patricia Blanchette, a Democrat who is also a city councilor, said she is submitting preliminary legislation that mirrors Bangor's ordinance. The Legislature will take up the bill during the session that starts in January.
Under Bangor's ordinance, violators face $50 fines if they smoke while anyone under 18 is in the vehicle.
Blanchette, a smoker who voted for Bangor's ordinance as a councilor, said many parents do not realize the health risks they create for their children when they smoke around them.
"Adults can choose to smoke or not, but that child doesn't have any choice at all," Blanchette said.
Public costs of the effects of children's exposure to secondhand smoke are astronomical, said Blanchette. MaineCare, the state's Medicaid program, often picks up costs of asthma medications and other treatments resulting from exposure to smoke, "so we all pay," she said.
Bangor's ordinance took effect in January, but police said they have not issued a citation yet.
Deputy Chief Peter Arno said that while he drives around the city, he does not see people smoking while children are in their cars.
"I used to see it a lot," said Arno, adding that word of the restriction seems to have gotten through to motorists.
At least 20 states and a number of municipalities have considered limiting smoking in cars when minors are present. Arkansas bans smoking in cars with children age 6 and younger, while Louisiana has limited it when children 13 and younger are in the vehicle.
Maine is among states that ban smoking in public places, including restaurants and bars.