SC bill would bar smoking when a kid is in the car

COLUMBIA, SC (AP/WMBF) - A South Carolina bill making it illegal for drivers or passengers to smoke with a child in the vehicle is up for debate by a House panel.

A House subcommittee is set to consider the bill Wednesday.

It would bar smoking a cigarette when there's a child in the vehicle in a safety seat. State law requires children up to six years old and up to 80 pounds to be in a safety or booster seat.

Lawmakers aren't yet saying whether smoking in a car with a child would be a primary offense, meaning law enforcement could pull someone over for it, or a secondary offense.

Horry County Councilman Gary Loftus says if it's a primary offense he's not looking forward to the burden of catching violators falling on local law enforcement.

Someone caught smoking in the car could be fined $25.

Some smokers say that's not enough to deter them from lighting up around their little ones.

"I know you shouldn't do it, smoking around younger kids, but people are going to do it in their homes and you giving tickets, it's a little ridiculous," said Rebecca Todd, of Myrtle Beach.

Groups that encourage restricting second-hand smoke say a law like the one lawmakers are proposing is a step in the right direction.

"Taking these type steps to look at the elimination of second-hand smoke for people who can't protect themselves like workers, like children who are exposed, it will go a long way into improving the health," said Andy Pope, who works for Smoke Free Horry and is an instructor in the Health Promotion Department at Coastal Carolina University.

Proponents have said it's about protecting children from the dangers of second-hand smoke. Democratic Sen. Darrell Jackson of Hopkins initially proposed the idea in 2007 after seeing a woman in a Wal-Mart parking lot puffing away with a child strapped in the back seat.

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