Tempe considers making it illegal to smoke with kids in the car

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TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

One Valley city is thinking about making it illegal to smoke inside a car when children are in the vehicle. The ordinance could take effect in a matter of weeks in Tempe.

Police would not be able to pull you over for smoking while driving with children in the car, but officers can issue citations if they happen to spot it during a traffic stop for another offense.

"When you're strapped into the back of a vehicle and a person is smoking, you really don't have an escape,” says Tempe Councilman David Schapira.

For years, Schapira has been passionate about banning smoking in cars with children inside. And now, the newly-elected Tempe councilman has proposed such an ordinance in his city. He says the majority of residents are receptive to it.

Melissa Ronneseth is one of those residents. "I'm a former smoker,” says Ronneseth. “But even if I was still smoking, I probably would never, ever smoke in my car with my girls."

The mother of two young girls, Ronneseth says she kicked the habit before she got pregnant, keeping their health and wellness in mind.

"You want to put the best face forward for your children, and I don't think you want to be smoking around children anyway,” Ronneseth says.

Councilman Schapira says one in five Arizona children is in a car with a smoker each week. He says he wants to change that statistic.

The ban would be considered a secondary offense and would carry a fine of $50 for first-time offenders. It's something seven states, including California, Oregon and Utah already enforce. Still other states are considering similar legislation.

“I think this is something where Arizona has really fallen behind,” says Schapira. “There are a lot of states that already have a ban in place, so I think Tempe is going to have to step up and be the leader on these issues.”

Schapira is hopeful the ban will take effect in April.

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