Toronto, Ontario – The Ontario government introduced legislation yesterday that, if passed, will ban smoking in motor vehicles when children are present.

“I am extremely pleased that Premier McGuinty and (Health) Minister (Margarett) Best are moving forward with legislation to protect Ontario’s children from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke in automobiles,” said David Orazietti, MPP for Sault Ste. Marie, who introduced the issue in a private member’s bill. “This initiative is an important step in our government’s continuing commitment to make Ontario a healthier place to live.”

Under the proposed law, anyone in the motor vehicle who is smoking while someone else under the age of 16 is present would be committing an offense, whether it is the driver or a passenger. The proposed law would apply to both moving and stationary vehicles, and would apply to all motor vehicles, regardless of whether any window, sunroof, roof, door or other feature is open. If the act is passed, every person who fails to comply would be guilty of an offense and subject to a set fine of $250.

The government said that secondhand smoke in motor vehicles can be up to 27 times more concentrated than in a smoker’s home, and that children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to suffer health problems such as sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, and cancer and cardiac disease later in life. It can also negatively affect behaviour and attention span, and influence a child’s ability to reason and understand.

Nova Scotia, Yukon, Arkansas, California, Maine, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, South Australia and Tasmania have already banned smoking in motor vehicles when children are present.

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