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A new law passed by the Illinois Legislature will ban smoking in a vehicle when people younger than 18 are in the vehicle.

Under the law, smoking is defined as inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying a lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe, weed, plant, regulated narcotics or “other combustible substance.” (Yeah, dude, this could include some soon-to-be-legal marijuana tokes).

A vehicle under this law is any machine in which people or property may be moved or drawn upon a highway or requires a certificate of title. Snowmobiles, motorcycles and things used exclusively upon rails or tracks are excluded from this prohibition.

The penalty is not more than one Ben Franklin for the first offense, and not more than two Franklins and a Grant ($250) for the second and subsequent offenses. Spotting such a violation cannot not be used by the fuzz to stop or detain a driver, nor to inspect or search occupants or property in the vehicle.

If Johnny Law pulls you over for speeding, and upon rolling down your window to greet the officer it appears to him/her you have been violating this rule with Junior in the car, then you may get the ticket in addition to your ticket for going 28 miles over the limit.

The law becomes effective on June 1, 2020. This presumably was done to give smokers plenty of warning and opportunity to change their habit of sucking on the death chalk while taking the kids to school every day.

At least eight other states have laws barring smoking in cars with minors present. Scientific studies demonstrating that inhaling secondhand smoke is harmful have been the motivation and rationale for such action. In 2008, Illinois, with certain narrow exceptions, banned smoking in all buildings or facilities open to the public.

It is interesting that the issue of whether e-cigarettes and their vapor residue might also be harmful is garnering the attention of the public and their legislators.

Bills to limit or ban e-cigarettes entirely for adults statewide in public places has been defeated in the Illinois General Assembly. Illinois prohibits sales of e-cigarettes to people under 21. An e-cigarette is any product or device using a battery or other mechanism to heat a solution or component thereof that contains substances producing a vapor or aerosol intended for inhalation.

E-cigs are already barred in the State Capitol complex, and anything with nicotine is prohibited in places where tobacco smoking is prohibited on higher-education campuses.

Going back to our definition of smoking in a car, would an e-cigarette be barred because it might have an “other combustible substance”?

The General Assembly’s broad definition may have unwittingly (or wittingly) given probable cause for law enforcement to give a ticket for nicotine vaping in the car with the kiddies. We shall see.

And we shall see if e-cig smoking follows the path of tobacco smoking for greater legal restraint if medical data shows that such secondhand aerosols from e-cigs are harmful.

Sometimes where there’s smoke of public harm, there’s fire in government to protect the public from that harm.


But not always.

Just ask the folks in Flint, Mich.

Brett Kepley is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Aid Inc. You can send your questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820. Questions may be edited for space.