Traffic Q&A: Smoking in car won’t earn a ticket, but it’s bad for you

Question: Is it OK to smoke in a car with kids in it? — Leanna, Tacoma

Answer: If you mean OK legally, yes.

Washington doesn’t have a law that restricts smoking inside vehicles, and you won’t get arrested for doing it, even if you have an infant on board.

Medically, though, it’s not OK, according to public health officials.

Car interiors concentrate toxins in smoke, making them even more damaging than usual. Research says kids are at particular risk of secondhand smoke because their lungs are still growing.

Smoking in cars with children is prohibited in seven states: Oregon, California, Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, Utah and Vermont.

Vermont’s law is the least restrictive, banning smoking only when kids under the age of 8 are present. Oregon’s law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, is the most restrictive, banning it until kids are 18. Fines in Oregon are $250 for first offense and $500 for subsequent ones.

The Washington Legislature has considered similar bills, but they haven’t gone anywhere. Bills died in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012.