A new law restricting smoking in Vermont went into effect Tuesday. Its provisions include banning smoking in cars when children under 8 are in the vehicle.
Vermont became the sixth state to ban smoking in all hotels and motels and the eighth to ban smoking in cars when young children are present. The new smoking law - Act 135 - also bans the use of tobacco and tobacco substitutes such as e-cigarettes on all public school grounds and at public school-sponsored functions. Use of tobacco products and substitutes is restricted at licensed childcare facilities and registered child care homes. The law creates a 25-foot smoke-free boundary around all state-owned buildings. State-owned hospitals and secure facilities are now smoke-free campuses.
Vermont Department of Health Tobacco Control Program Community Tobacco Specialist Sarah Wylie explains that the new law extends many of the state’s current second-hand smoke protections, including protecting children under 8. “Even though we’ve made a lot of progress in getting parents to quit smoking, one in five Vermont youths in grades 6 through 8 still report being exposed to second-hand smoke in the car in the last week. Since there’s no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke, we really see this as an important step to protecting kids who can’t protect themselves.”
Smoking with a child in a vehicle is a primary offense, allowing law enforcement officers to stop the driver. Violators can face a $100 fine. American Lung Association in Vermont Senior Director of Health Education and Public Policy Rebecca Ryan says there are numerous studies showing the dangers of second-hand smoke in enclosed spaces. “Secondhand smoke is a gas and it rises and in a vehicle it really has no place to go. There was a Harvard School of Public Health study a few years back that showed alarming levels of second-hand smoke generated in just under five minutes in vehicles. They looked at all sorts of situations, where the air conditioning was running and different speeds and even with the windows open it was very, very dangerous. Especially to young children.”
The law includes bans on the use of electronic cigarettes on all school grounds and events and at daycare facilities. Ryan says it addresses the social aspects of smoking . “The FDA is in the process of regulating electronic cigarettes. So there’s more research that needs to be done of the actual harms. But there’s also the social norms. Kids are used to being in smoke-free environments and if they start seeing people use an electronic cigarette that looks very similar to a cigarette it makes that more the norm. So we’re trying to avoid that as well.”
It is now against the law to smoke in rooms in hotels, motels and any lodging establishment in the state. Vermont Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Tourism Tori Ossola says most have already implemented 100 percent smoke-free environments. “Exceptions to this would be chain hotels. Their parent companies had their own smoking and non-smoking policies. So we really feel that it’s not going to have that big of an impact on tourism. Because as we were polling our members this really wasn’t going to change things very much.”
The law also bans the sale of liquid or gel substances containing nicotine unless the product is in child-resistant packaging, effective January 1. The materials are used with electronic cigarettes.