Tempe, AZ, has passed a controversial law aimed at keeping kids away from tobacco smoke, but it’s got critics up in arms over double standards.
Tempe’s City Council passed an ordinance last week that fines drivers $50 if officers catch them smoking while there is a child in the car. Any subsequent offenses get bumped up to $100 per ticket.
But the law doesn’t only include parents or other adults smoking tobacco cigarettes. The legislation also lumps e-cigarettes into the mix, which are used for vaping rather than smoking.
What is vaping? Vapor cigarettes use a solution that is heated within the device to produce a vapor. E-cigarettes have become popular in recent years, with more than four million Americans now vaping, either for smoking cessation purposes or simply for recreational use, according to the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association.
City Council members in Tempe say that not enough research exists thus far to determine whether or not e-cigs are dangerous.
“There’s just so [much] contradicting information that I still don’t have clear, consistent evidence,” Councilman Joel Navarro said of the council’s decision.
Matt Morales, executive director of the National Association of Vaping Businesses, said that this treatment of e-cigarettes is unfair and called the products a safer alternative to smoking. He criticized the decision and said that it could hurt the reputation that e-cigs and similar products have in the public eye.
There is an exception to the law, though: adults cannot be pulled over solely for smoking or vaping when there is a child with them in the car. Police can only issue a ticket if the driver is stopped for something else, such as having a broken tail light, running a stop sign or speeding.
Drivers can also be cited according to how many children are present in the car. In other words, a first time offense involving three children in the car could cost a parent $150.
But critics think that this law is unfair, as well, such as one in Kingman, which was the first town in Arizona to pass such a law.
Rich Thurlow, editor for the Kingman Daily Miner, asked why the offense is only considered a secondary one.
“Why can a motorist obeying all traffic laws smoke two cigarettes at once while a third smolders in the ashtray, with no fear of getting a citation even though the SUV is packed with children?” Thurlow asked of the law in Kingman.
The ordinance in Tempe will take effect on 30 days from May 21, when the ordinance was passed.