OPHA Health Policy & Advocacy Committee


House Bill 2261  Banning Smoking in Cars with Children Present

Status - Died in committee

Summary - House Bill 2261 aims to create an offense for smoking inside motor vehicles carrying children under the age of seventeen.  Proposed consequences under House Bill 2261 include a Class D traffic violation with a maximum fine of $90 for the first offense, a Class C traffic violation and a $180 fine for the second offense, and a Class D traffic violation with a $360 fine for the third or subsequent offense.  The bill clearly states that the smoking of cigars, cigarettes or tobacco in any form will fall under this law if passed.                                          

Chief Sponsor – Former Representative Chuck Riley 

Public Health Background - In 1992 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classified secondhand smoke as a class A human carcinogen.  As the 2006 Surgeon General’s Report concluded, there is no level of secondhand smoke exposure that may be considered risk-free.  Of the 126 million nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke in the U.S. each year, children are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of secondhand smoke because of their smaller and developing organs.  Exposure among children has been associated with a number of detrimental health effects including bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, sudden infant death syndrome, and middle-ear infections. Studies have shown that toxin levels created by secondhand smoke cause air pollution levels inside of cars to be ten times the highest hazard level on the Air Quality Index set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  A study on the effects of smoking inside a motor vehicle performed by John Hopkins University found a 95% increase in air nicotine concentrations per cigarette smoked.  

Public Health Benefits – If passed, House Bill 2261 will undoubtedly benefit Oregon’s children by limiting their exposure to secondhand smoke.  While the passage of legislation such as Oregon’s Smoke-Free Workplace law have lowered the dangers present in many public domains, private domains such as the home and motor vehicles remain largely unregulated.  Direct medical costs of secondhand smoke exposure among U.S. children have been estimated to total approximately $4.6 billion per year.  In the U.S. alone, as many as 26,000 new cases of childhood asthma may be attributed to parental smoking each year.  House Bill 2261 will both lower the direct medical costs associated with secondhand smoke exposure and improve the health and well-being of Oregon’s children.

Key Points

  • Bans smoking in motor vehicles carrying children under age 17 in Oregon
  • Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke
  • Air nicotine concentrations inside a motor vehicle increase 95% per cigarette smoked
  • Will lower the number of children exposed to toxins present in secondhand smoke
  • Will act as a voice for these children, protecting and promoting their health 

Key Supporters

  • The American Heart Association 

Oregon Public Health Association (endorsed a similar bill in 2009)