Car Seat Laws

Is it Illegal to Smoke in a Car with a Child in SC?

Whether you live in the area, or plan to visit, it is important to know the laws about smoking in South Carolina. Nothing is worse than getting an unexpected fine when you are out and about enjoying a cruise ride. We all have heard the dangers of smoking, but is smoking in your car with a child illegal?

In South Carolina it is legal to smoke in a car with a child. Currently, there is a bill in the Senate proposed to make it illegal. If passed, it would make it “unlawful for a person to smoke a tobacco product in a motor vehicle while a person who is less than eighteen years old as a passenger.”

Although it may be legal to smoke in the car with a child, you may find yourself charged with child endangerment, as secondhand smoke is a hazard to a child’s health. 

There have been thousands of studies on the effects of secondhand smoke that lead to respiratory issues and even death. If you are considering smoking in your vehicle with your child, please read on to see why it is not advisable, and what other states are doing about it.

What legislation is there in South Carolina about smoking in the car with the child?

Lawmakers have been trying to pass a bill as an amendment to The Clean Air Indoor Act. this bill has gone through different revisions, with the current one stating “It is unlawful for a person to smoke a tobacco product in a motor vehicle while a person who is less than eighteen years old is a passenger”. 

It also includes a fine for up to $100 for violating this proposed bill. On January 12 of 2021, the Senate referred the bill to the Committee on Transportation to decide if the bill will move on to a vote by the Senate. 

What are the smoking laws in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, there is the Clean Indoor Air Act. This identifies places where smoking is not allowed. Some of these places are:-Public Schools and Preschools

-Indoor buildings that provide children’s services

-Government Buildings

-Elevators

-Public transportation (except taxis)

It also gives businesses the responsibility to designate the smoking and non- smoking areas on their premises. To be lawful, they must display signs and a barrier or ventilation system to keep the areas separated from each other.

In addition to bans and regulations on smoking indoors, South Carolina cities and counties have passed legislation on smoking outdoors. In 2020, several parks and beaches made it illegal to smoke there. 

This came about, not only because of the concern of secondhand smoke, but also because of the pollution concerns. 

Cigarette butts are generally not properly disposed of. Many leave the cigarette butts in the sand, polluting the beaches.  Cigarettes contain harmful metals and is a cause for concern. According to the Journal of Tobacco Control, “The release of metals from littered cigarette butts in the marine environment may increase the potential for acute harm to local species and may enter the food chain,” 

Is it illegal to smoke around a child?

It is not illegal to smoke around a child in the United States. Although it is legal, there are many reasons why you should not smoke around children or anyone for that matter.

Tobacco smoke contains dangerous chemicals and is harmful for anyone near while you are smoking. The dangers of smoking around children can cause severe respiratory issues and even death. It is not something to take lightly.

The CDC has stated that children are more exposed to secondhand smoke than adults. And 4 out of 10 children (Ages 3-11) in the United States are exposed to secondhand smoke.

These numbers are concerning. This is why many lawmakers have begun to introduce bills to restrict smoking around children.

What are the dangers of secondhand smoke?

Children are the most vulnerable to secondhand smoke because they are still developing. Studies have shown that babies who live in a home with a smoking mother are more likely to die because of SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome). 

Smoking around children makes them more susceptible to an array of respiratory issues. Secondhand smoke can cause infections such as bronchitis or even pneumonia in babies and young children. 

Secondhand smoke also causes respiratory issues in older children. Coughing, wheezing, phlegm, and becoming out of breath are some of the symptoms of being around secondhand smoke. It can also cause ear infections due to the buildup of mucus.

If a child suffers from asthma, secondhand smoke is one of the worst things they could be in contact with. It can instantly cause them to have an asthma attack.

Could you be charged with child endangerment?

As of now, there are no laws that prohibit smoking in a car with a child. However, if an officer pulls you over and you are smoking in the car, they may have reasonable cause to write you up for child endangerment.

In South Carolina, child endangerment is to “place the child at unreasonable risk of harm affecting the child’s life, physical or mental health, or safety; (2) do or cause to be done unlawfully or maliciously any bodily harm to the child so that the life or health of the child is endangered or likely to be endangered; or (3) willfully abandon the child”. 

All evidence of secondhand smoke shows that it is very harmful to a child’s physical health, and therefore you may be at risk for facing this charge. 

What states is it illegal to smoke in a car with a child?

Many states are taking action to ensure child safety. Currently, it is illegal to smoke in a car with a child as a passenger in parts of 17 states. Most states leave the jurisdiction up to the city or county to enforce this law.

The following states have legislation making it illegal to smoke with a child in the car with child passengers under the age of 18:

-California

-Indiana

-New Jersey

-Kentucky

-Hawaii

-Kansas

-Oregon

-New York

-Alabama

-Illinois 

There is currently a smoking ban with child passengers ages ranging from 16 and under in the following states:

Arkansas (child’s age <14)

-Louisiana (<13)

-Maine (<16)

-Puerto Rico (<13)

-Utah (<15)

-Vermont (<8)

-Virginia (<8)

Is car smoking banned in the US?

It is not illegal to smoke in a car as a nationwide law. However, if it is causing you to drive recklessly, an officer could ticket you for reckless driving. You could also get fined if you do not properly dispose of your cigarette butt. 

If you throw the cigarette out of your window for disposal, this could be cause for a fine for littering. It can also cause a fire. Many forest fires have been started from the careless disposal of cigarette butts thrown out of the window of a car.

In 2020, cigarette butts caused 4,187 fires in Telangana. This is something that could easily be avoided. Cars are no longer made with built-in ashtrays, so if you are a smoker, it would be advisable to keep one in your car in order to properly dispose of them.

You may also face a child endangerment charge. When smoking in a car with a child, secondhand smoke is detrimental to a child’s health. Opening a car window while smoking does not matter, any amount of smoke is hazardous to the child’s health.

What is the age limit for smoking in a motor vehicle?

In the United States, there is no legality regarding how old you must be to smoke while in a motor vehicle. However, the government has enforced a legal age limit to purchase tobacco products.

Currently, the legal age in the US to purchase tobacco is 21. The age limit was just raised from 18 years old to 21 years old in 2020.

When did it become illegal to smoke in a car with a child?

The first few states that adopted this law began in 2006. Arkansas, Louisiana, and Puerto Rico were among the first to enact a law. It is not a nationwide ban and is left up to each state and even cities and counties to decide.

Worldwide, most countries have nationwide smoke-free legislation. In fact, the United States, along with some countries in Asia are seemingly the only few countries where there is not national smoke-free legislation in place. 

While it is not a nationwide ban in America, more and more states within the US are actively introducing bills that will eventually lead to a ban on smoking in vehicles with a child present.

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Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren