Butt out: New Jersey bill would ban smoking while driving

| 7/26/2005

In recent years, smokers have found it increasingly difficult to find a place to enjoy their habit – permissibly.

An effort in the New Jersey Legislature would take away yet another spot to light up.

A newly introduced bill would allow law enforcement to rip a driver’s smokes right out of their mouth and force them to pay up to $250 for the pleasure. Drivers would first need to be pulled over for another offense, such as speeding or running a red light.

Sponsored by Democratic Assembly members John McKeon of South Orange and Loretta Weinberg of Teaneck, the bill would prohibit drivers from smoking cigars, pipes or cigarettes.

Regarded by some as a pipe dream, supporters say the ban is more about improving highway safety than protecting health because smoking is a distraction for drivers, much like cell phones.

New Jersey already is one of only three states that restrict drivers from using hand-held cell phones.

Smokers are understandably none to pleased about this effort. They complain the proposal is only a step away from banning smoking in the home.

The New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police isn’t too crazy about the idea either.

Mitchell Sklar, the group’s executive director, said police departments may balk at enforcing such a law.

“In general, we’d rather not try to incrementally look at every single behavior and make those a violation,” he told The Associated Press.

A4306 is in the Assembly Transportation Committee.