Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough teens' idea becomes bill to ban smoking with kids in car

Hillsborough high school students sponsored by Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa, far right, present an the bill to the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday in Tallahassee.

Associated Press

Hillsborough high school students sponsored by Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa, far right, present an the bill to the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday in Tallahassee.

TALLAHASSEE — Rebekah Morffi remembers riding in a car when she was 5 years old with her grandmother, whose cigarette smoke saturated the interior.

"I just remember suffering in the back seat with nobody to help out," said Morffi, a freshman at Bloomingdale High School in Valrico.

So she proposed legislation to ban smoking in cars around kids. Morffi and seven other Hills­borough County high school students presented the idea Wednesday, winning unanimous support from the Senate Transportation Committee.

The legislation would make it illegal to smoke in a car when children younger than 16 are present. It would be a secondary offense, so an officer could not pull someone over because they are smoking. But if they are stopped for another reason and are in violation, it would count against them.

A violation would result in a $100 penalty, although the bill gives the officer the latitude to issue a warning and give the person antismoking information.

Florida is one of 23 states to propose similar legislation and would join four others that have enacted such laws.

The students are members of the "Ought to be a Law" civics program in Hillsborough County. Students from each of the county's high schools propose ideas for bills, and they compete for the right to have their proposal sponsored by local lawmakers.

Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa, created the program and sponsored the bill in the House. He said the bill's next steps would teach the students the intricacies of the legislative process. They now hope to persuade other legislators to attach the proposal to other bills.

Ambler said the legislation is not a novelty and "has a fair chance, just like many other bills right now."

The students came prepared for Wednesday's committee hearing, though some were admittedly nervous. They stayed up until about 2 a.m. the night before working on a presentation filled with medical studies, statistics and personal stories.

The students argued that the legislation is similar to laws punishing parents who leave children alone in cars or don't buckle them up.

"If we didn't have those laws, not everyone would do it. We'd have kids dying because they don't have their seat belts on and because they were left in hot cars," said Fadwa Hilili, a junior at Tampa Bay Technical High School. "We definitely need this law to make sure children are safe from the dangers of secondhand smoke."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that infants and children are particularly vulnerable to the toxins in secondhand smoke because they are still developing.

Exposed children tend to have weaker lungs and be more susceptible to acute respiratory ailments and ear infections. Exposure also makes babies more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome, according to the CDC Web site.

Secondhand smoke is responsible for an estimated 150,000–300,000 cases of bronchitis and pneumonia each year, and riding in a vehicle is one of the main ways children are exposed, the CDC says.

Several lawmakers commended the program for getting children engaged in public service. Tampa Republican Sen. Victor Crist, who sponsored the bill, told a story from when he was an aide to lawmakers decades ago.

"I remember the five-hour trip back to St. Petersburg with the good senator and the good representative that I was here with — with the windows up and them puffing away on cigars," he said. "In their honor, I'd like to see this bill passed."

Lee Logan can be reached at (850) 224-7263 or llogan@sptimes.com.

Hillsborough teens' idea becomes bill to ban smoking with kids in car 04/07/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 8:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. Sue Carlton: Job or family when a hurricane's coming — a very Florida conundrum

    Hurricanes

    It must seem as foreign to Northerners as shoveling snow is to those of us raised in the Sunshine State: The very-Florida conundrum of having to choose between work and family — between paycheck and personal safety — when a hurricane comes.

    A hurricane helps the rest of us acknowledge the police officers, paramedics, hospital personnel, public works employees and others who stay on the job despite the storm. 
  3. After Tampa concert, Arcade Fire members party, preach politics at Crowbar

    Blogs

    After waiting more than a decade for Arcade Fire’s first appearance in Tampa, fans didn’t have to wait long for their second.

    DJ Windows 98, a.k.a. singer Win Butler of Arcade Fire, performed at a "Disco Town Hall" at Crowbar following the band's concert at the USF Sun Dome on Sept. 22, 2017.
  4. Review: Arcade Fire open hearts, play with passion at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa

    Blogs

    Gloves off, hearts open and disco balls glittering, Arcade Fire scaled the stage for the first time ever in Tampa, pouncing and flailing and performing with all the passion that’s made them one of the world’s most celebrated rock bands this century.

    Arcade Fire performed at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa on Sept. 22, 2017.
  5. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The wait felt like forever for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, having gone 10 months without playing in a game.

    A scramble in front of the Lightning goal has Matthew Peca, far left, and Erik Cernak, middle, helping out goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period of a 3-1 win against the Predators. Vasilevskiy, who made 29 saves, was “exceptional,” coach Jon Cooper says.