.By Morgan True VTDigger.org
The Vermont House passed a bill Friday that expands smoking bans to all hotel and motel rooms, outside state buildings and in cars carrying children.
“This public health measure continues to protect Vermonters from the impacts of tobacco,” House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morrisville, said in a statement.
The bill includes an amendment that would prevent Vermonters from smoking in the car with children present.
“An infant strapped into a car seat is involuntarily and intensely exposed to more than 400 toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke,” said Rep. Patti Komline, R-Dorset, citing an American Lung Association study, according to the statement issued by the speaker’s office.
On the House floor Friday, Komline, the lead sponsor of the amendment, cited data showing that exposure to secondhand smoke is 27 times greater in a car than a residence.
The bill, H.217, would also prevent people from smoking within 25 feet of a state building or its property. The ban prohibits smoking on public school grounds and at child care facilities.
If a child care facility is located in a residence, the inhabitants could smoke when children aren’t present but the children’s parents would need to be notified.
The bill passed on a voice vote with little debate, but it caused a stir on the House floor Thursday when Rep. George Till, D-Jericho, pushed for an amendment to raise the age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21.
It was eventually withdrawn, but not before House Majority Leader Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, made a pledge to take up the age increase as separate bill should it pass out of committee.
There are two bills under consideration that would increase the age for purchasing tobacco in the House Human Services Committee. One bill, H.605, raises the age to 21, while the other, H.616, does the same with an exception for members of armed forces who would still be able to purchase tobacco at 18.
Vermont would be the first state to raise the tobacco age, though Till noted some municipalities had upped the cutoff.