Bill to ban smoking in car with children takes strange turn

Smoking in a car. by Wout de Jong

Smoking in car by Wout de Jong

A controversial bill that would ban smoking inside any car with a child under the age of 8 took an interesting turn in the state Senate Friday morning.

Sen. John Astle, D-Anne Arundel, proposed an amendment that would change the age from 8 to 16 in what appeared to be an attempt to kill the bill. Citing his opposition to red light and speed cameras, Astle said he was aware of the health risks of smoking, but was concerned the bill could be a slippery slope.

“If smoke is bad for kids under 8, it must be bad for kids over 8,” Astle said as he explained his amendment.

Supporters argued that the 8 year age limit was because children under that age are required to use a car seat, which is easier for police to spot.

The amendment seemed like a blatant attempt to kill the bill, but then something strange happened: Astle’s killer amendment passed 24-19.

Despite several senators seeming astonished that the amendment was adopted, the issue appeared resolved for the day after Sen. Ed Reilly, R- Anne Arundel, moved to postpone debate to Monday night. Reilly said his own amendment had to be redrafted due to the bill’s new language.

However, minutes before the Senate was set to recess, Sen. Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore City, motioned to reconsider Astle’s amendment. With no debate senators voted again, this time defeating the amendment 19-25. The bill’s language reverted back to children aged 8 and under. It was a rare parliamentary move, and one Ferguson could only make because he had voted for the amendment the first time. It left Senate President Mike Miller stunned.

“That is one of the few times I have no idea what just happened,” Miller said to laughter from the chamber in which he is usually master of every move.

Debate on the bill is set to resume Monday.

—Justin Snow

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Ted Daly

    The real problem with this bill is that not one single person, young or old, will be helped by it. Not one. The reasons why this bill is a ridiculous was a ridiculous waste of the Peoples’ time are too numerous to count, but here are just a few that would have been immediately apparent, had anyone bothered to devote even a tiny amount of thought to it:
    1. The kinds of people who will smoke around a
    child will do so anyway.
    2. How will a police officer catch them in the act?
    Do they expect the offender to actually keep smoking until the officer reaches
    their window? If they toss the cigarette away, or stub it in the ashtray, there
    is no way to prove they were smoking with the kid in the car. No one will ever
    be caught doing this.
    3. In the extremely unlikely event that someone is
    caught doing it, will a $50 fine deter them in the future? You can’t even fill
    an empty gas tank for $50.
    4. Whether or not you smoke, they are reaching into
    your private property to control your actions. If they are trying to protect
    our health, how long before they ban junk food, eating while driving, or lying
    on the couch watching tv? These are also unhealthy.
    5. Is this
    truly the most important issue facing lawmakers today? We should all be ANGRY
    that this entire deliberative body devoted who-knows-how-many hours in crafting
    this legislation! In doing so, they are ignoring the many REAL problems we have
    in this state. Like gas prices, for instance: we are all hurting when we go to the pump, and the working poor are disproportionately burdened. The solution? A new gas tax!

  2. Mismith1231

    Are there any civil liberties left in this country? What business does big brother have in our vehicles and with our children? this government is far to intrusive and completely control compulsive. Or government was set up to be by the people for the people not what big brother thinks is best for the people. it makes me want to move to canada at least they are not pretending to be a free democrocy.

    • Smoking Blows

       Enjoy your trip. Canada is tougher on smoking than America.

  3. c b

    How every did the older generation survive with so many blatant risks to their health that they had to endure. Thank goodness we have yet another law to protect us from ourselves.

  4. carol

    children are dying from 2nd hand smoke ..and any age is hurting not just under 8


  1. Bill to ban smoking in car with children takes strange turn | JournoSnow - [...] Originally published by Share this:FacebookTwitterDiggEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. From:, News ← Bill would…
  2. Smoking ban in vehicles with children passes Senate | JournoSnow - [...] John Astle, D-Anne Arundel, who proposed a killer amendment last week that was later stripped from the bill in a rare…

Support Our Work!

We depend on your support. A generous gift in any amount helps us continue to bring you this service.