Police making sure cars are smoke-free for kids

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) --According to the Arkansas Department of Health, more than Half of American children under the age of 11 are exposed to second hand smoke...One of the worst places for kids is inside a car!

With one lit cigarette in a car the air quality can go from good to really, really bad in about 20 seconds.

Secondhand smoke is dangerous anyway, that's a proven fact. And to a small child strapped in a car seat the effects can last their entire life if they make it.

"Crib death, lower respiratory tract infections, ear problems, ear infections, ear fluid build up." Dr. Lowery Beck is a pediatrician in Jonesboro, he read off a shopping list of health problems that children can get from second hand smoke.

"Pound for pound they are going to breathe in more air on a minute by minute basis. Just because of being small and the way their body is composed. What that means is they are going to be breathing in more pollutant than an adult is in the same environment."

The Arkansas Department of Health set up a demonstration at the NorthEast Arkansas Fairgrounds. It involved a private car with sensors in the front and back. The rear sensor was attached to a doll in a car seat. The sensors would monitor pollutant air particles  to show the rapid buildup of smoke in a car and how dangerous it is.

Dr. Bob West from the Dept.of Health explained the air quality chart levels and particle measurements taken from inside test vehicles. Note the red line designates the hazardous level.

Also sensor readings from inside the car would be seen on LCD screens. These screens would show the levels with 1000 being the top setting.

Volunteer Tony Clem lit one up, took a puff and the levels begin to climb. Remember 500 is hazardous. The bar graphs quickly exceeded safe levels and moved off the charts taking a while to come down. The back set levels dropped slower than the front.

Even if you smoke and drive with your windows down. It doesn't matter, levels are just as high if not a little bit higher.

Arkansas Act 13 makes it a ticketed offense to smoke in a privately owned vehicle with a child in a safety seat under 6 years of age or 60 pounds.

Corporal Lorie King from the Arkansas State Police, "This is an Arkansas law and we may pull you over if you break this law."

There have been a few tickets written, primarily when the vehicle has been stopped for another violation like speeding. ASP Corporal Dan Browning has made several stops and issued tickets for smoking in cars.

"Walk up to the car and observe that there are small children who fall under the Child Safety Protection Act. And you'll have an adult smoking in the car or trying to put a cigarette out."

The fine is 25 dollars which can be eliminated with proof of entry into a smoking cessation program for a first time offender.

Our test subject Tony Clem  is a father and admits that he has smoked with his kids in the car. After today he may change his mind.

"I'm gonna try and not smoke with my kids in the car. I don't smoke in the house so...."

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