a family of 4 riding in a car

In Maine, Kids Ride Smokefree

Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, 60 of which are known or suspected carcinogens.

by Stephanie Shapiro

Adult car drivers and passengers in Maine may no longer light up if there are children under 16 inside the car, thanks to a state law passed last April that was championed by Jonathan Shenkin, MPH '98.

Shenkin, a pediatric dentist, launched his campaign after detecting the tell-tale stench of cigarettes on his young patients. He first persuaded the city of Bangor to outlaw smoking in vehicles with minors in early 2007, before moving on to target the entire state. Maine's new ban will let violators off with a warning for the first year, but after that smokers risk a $50 fine.

A handful of other states—including Arkansas, California and Louisiana—and jurisdictions have passed similar laws against smoking in vehicles with minors. "I have gotten calls from people wanting advice in Rhode Island, Vermont, North Carolina and New York," says Shenkin, who is also an assistant professor of health policy at Boston University.

"This public health success," he says, "is all based on the beauty of democracy and the ability to engage the legislature and the public at the same time."