Cars With Kids: NYC's Next Smoking Ban?

A Queens councilman proposes an increasingly common policy.

ByABC News
August 15, 2007, 4:10 PM

Aug. 16, 2007 — -- Don't light up while driving with minors inside Big Apple city limits.

That's the proposal a New York City councilman will unveil today, a relatively straightforward idea that incites sharp division among supporters eager to snuff out smoking and opponents who lament an unnecessary privacy infringement.

City Councilman James Gennaro, a Queens Democrat, told ABC News that he modeled the proposal after a similar ban passed in Rockland County, N.Y., just two months ago.

Under the New York City proposal, police could stop any drivers caught smoking with a passenger who appears younger than 18 years old. The offense, if approved by the city council and ultimately Mayor Michael Bloomberg, would earn the driver a $100 fine.

"Anyone who smokes is pretty much making everyone else smoke too," Gennaro said. "If someone has a cheeseburger, I'm not having that cholesterol, but I'm having the smoking."

Gennaro cited broad statistics that show the danger of secondhand smoke and specific data that he said show how cigarette smoke inside cars exposes passengers -- particularly children -- to concentrated levels of cigarette toxins.

But Gary Nolan, the American regional director of the Smokers' Club, a right-to-smoke advocacy group, disputed the statistical impact caused by secondhand smoke.

"My premise here is that secondhand smoking science is junk science," Nolan flatly told ABC News, claiming that information has been "cherrypicked" so that the federal government can make sweeping conclusions about the dangers of secondhand smoke.

At least 40 carcinogens can be found in more than 4,000 cigarette substances and approximately 3,000 nonsmokers die each year from lung cancer due to secondhand smoke, according to government findings cited in an Environmental Protection Agency report.

Young children, particularly under 18 months of age, face an even more serious risk, according to the EPA, with hundreds of thousands of cases of asthma negatively affected by secondhand smoke each year.