SALEM, Ore., March 20 (UPI) -- Oregon's state Senate passed a bill 29-10 to make smoking in cars with children a secondary traffic offense, punishable by fines of up to $250, officials say.
Sen. Brian Boquist, a Republican, a sponsor of the bill, specifically cited "Obamacare" and the expansion of Medicaid to 260,000 more Oregonians as the reason to enact a law prohibiting adults from smoking when children traveled in a motor vehicle.
"If we have to pay the bill, we get to make the rules," Boquist told The Lund Report.
Five Republicans supported the bill and nine opposed it, along with Sen. Betsy Johnson, a Democrat.
Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland, spoke in favor of the bill saying children were more likely than adults to be exposed to secondhand smoke, often because they have no choice by sitting in the backseat of a car driven by a parent.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," Steiner Hayward told The Lund Report, noting asthma was the third-leading cause of hospital visits for children age 13 and under in just 2011, the Oregon Health Plan paid out more than $1 million in emergency room visits for children with asthma.
"This bill is an ounce of prevention both for our children's health and for our state's budget."
Sen. Rod Monroe, a Democrat, said the debate reminded him of a law he helped pass three decades ago requiring car seats for children in cars, because those opposed to that bill, used the same arguments against dictating to parents.
Sen. Jeff Kruse of Roseburg, a Republican, said he opposed the bill in the Judiciary Committee after working to get the bill broadened to include all smoking -- not just tobacco.
"I'm opposing this. How dare the government tell me what to do in my own car," Kruse, a smoker, said. "For every protection that we put into statute, Oregonians lose a freedom."
A vote in the House could occur next week.