New Jersey Considers Ban on Smoking While Driving

A New Jersey assemblyman has introduced a bill to ban smoking in cars.

No butts behind wheel? N.J. moves on smokers (AP)

Ashtrays have been disappearing in cars like fins on Cadillacs, and so could smoking while driving in New Jersey, under a measure introduced in the Legislature. Although the measure faces long odds, it still has smokers incensed and arguing it’s a Big Brother intrusion that threatens to take away one of the few places they can enjoy their habit. “The day a politician wants to tell me I can’t smoke in my car, that’s the day he takes over my lease payments,†said John Cito, a financial planner from Hackensack with a taste for $20 cigars.


Some states, including New Jersey, have considered putting the brakes on smoking while children are in the car. But none have gone for an outright ban on smoking while driving, according to Washington, D.C.-based Action on Smoking and Health, the country̢۪s oldest anti-tobacco organization.


Assemblyman John McKeon, a tobacco opponent whose father died of emphysema, sponsored the legislation. He cites a AAA-sponsored study on driver distractions in which the automobile association found that of 32,000 accidents linked to distraction, 1 percent were related to smoking.

While this measure is considered to have little chance of success, so would the current level of smoking prohibition when viewed twenty years ago. McKeon is almost certainly on to something; smokers are among the most reviled groups in society and one of the few against whom it is still fashionable to harbor prejudice. (And I don’t necessarily exclude myself from the anti-smoking crowd.)

The rationale he offers, though, is staggering in its implications. Presumably, there are currently-legal practices drivers engage in–changing the CD player, looking for a new radio station during commercials, consuming drive-through French fries–that cause more than 320 accidents.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Fersboo says:

    Fricken’ nannies! How about enforcing the existing laws and ticketing the bad drivers that cause more problems then the smokers?

  2. Jim Henley says:

    Jeff Jarvis says if it will stop even one terrorist, he’s for it.

  3. Richard Rater says:

    Mr. Cito is dead on, take over my payments big brother!

  4. John Burgess says:

    Well, I guess we’ve resolved who’s to be the next generation of movie villains. By the 60s, Germans and Japanese were, so, well, over. American Indians and Mexicans were soon to join them in the “safe preserve.” Then the spotlight of villainy shifted to the military-industrial complex. Nebulous terrorists, loosely modeled on the Red Army Faction had their day in the limelight, but that day passed–though capitalists of any stripe are somewhat fair, but small game.

    Arabs are still pretty good targets, but not as juicy as others, smokers included. Pretty soon, we’ll have all the villains smoking, drinking, and running with scissors. And that will be cause enough.

  5. McGehee says:

    Running with scissors is silly.

    Run with rock. Rock smashes scissors.

  6. Herb says:

    Leave it up to New Jersey to come up with something like this.

    If there is a way to get their hands into your pockets, New Jersey will think of it and put it into motion.

    Remember it was Lautenburg who cost the Airlines Millions and Millions when he missed a flight because of bad weather and he blamed it on the smoke from the Jet Engines. And, guess who really ended up paying for it.

    Yes, if there is a way to get some dollars from you, New Jersey will be on hand to take it, by hook or crook. (I mean that literally)

  7. Dale says:

    You got to be kidding. I guess I’ll never grace New Jersey with my presence. When they start buying my cars I’ll stop smoking while I’m driving. How about stoping all these knuckleheads hurtling up 95 with a cell phone in one hand, the A section of the WaPo in the other, a cup of coffee between their legs and “holding” the wheel with their knee, all the while flying solo in HOV3? Leave me alone to smoke my cigarettes.

    Oh by the way I don’t really give a damn about what other people think of me or my habits.

  8. James says:

    So, smoking causes an estimated 1 percent of accidents caused by distraction? Big deal.

    When you look at all causes for accidents, not just distractions, the percentage drops to .0001% (one-ten-thousandth of a percent) according to a study by the California Highway Patrol a few years back.

  9. John Anderson says:

    I am afraid you are correct in thinking such will [eventually] pass. I do not deride the “slippery slope” as some do.

    I was in a rent-free housing complex for several years while waiting for SocSec to process my disability claim. Even before I finally got out, I was warning others to try to get into a different building, as the management of ours was going to ban smoking, on “slippery slope” sliding –

    1. Banned in stairwells. Suposedly because no detectors there – solid steel stairs, brick and cement walls, fire alarms, but no detectors.
    2. Four months later, smoking banned in corridors and restrooms. “Some people do not like the smell” sounds legit – except in the three years I was there I did not hear a single complaint.
    3. Two months later, banned from the steps and sidewalk in front of the building. Supposedly because police were concerned we were bumming cigarettes from cars – and possibly dealing drugs – and interfering with traffic. In my time there, I saw cars stopped by residents twice – but I will admit perhaps three times a day a car would pull over so as to be able to talk to acquaintances spotted on the sidewalk.
    4. Two months later, no smoking on the outside property (eg parking lot) or sidewalks.
    5. Six months later, banned from having your door open. Supposedly at the behest of the fire department, which had not complained from 1915 (when the building went up) until 2005. No word on altering doors to open outward rather than inward.

    I point this out to people I know who smoke and are still there, and say the next step is to ban smoking entirely – and get told “never happen, they can’t tell us what to do in our own room.” Hah!

  10. Zsa Zsa says:

    Just what we need! Another law… It is really getting bad when law makers are sitting around thinking up ways to control people! If they really need something to do? There are so many other important issues that need help! Public Schools,Elderly care,etc…

  11. JW says:

    And I would be willing to bet dollars to donuts that if you wanted to stiffen the penalties for drunk driving and revise open container laws in NJ, this same guy would have a fit about “due process” and “unfair enforcement” and condemn field sobriety testing as a violation of the amendment against unreasonable search and seizure.

  12. PJ says:

    One of the big headlines today is that the 6% of young drivers cause 20% of fatal crashes. I saw an interview with Assemblyman John McKeon, who started this process. He was worried that a smoker would endanger him and his three young daughters. Leaving out that I’m sure he’s distracted driving around with his three young daughters, they’re the threat when it comes time to drive. (I don’t know their ages…) Hypocrisy rings true for this assemblyman!

  13. Michele says:

    this is UN-believable. what a self-righteous initiative by a despicably greedy government… shall we ban changing the radio station, could we ban billboards and flashy signs? they distract your vision, smoking distracts 2 fingers. lets see, since we banned cell phones people have been looking down in their lap at the phone to send text messages, or scrounging in the backseat for the hands-free device while traveling 70mph. and have cell phone-related accidents decreased since the measure took effect? are politicians really considering future effects of the laws they pass? if stressed-out smokers can’t have their nicotine while driving, all i can envision is more severe road rage.

  14. Shayne Hawn Cols., OH says:

    I am convinced that John McKeon was an SS member in his former life. Hail Hitler, John.
    If the law passes I hope that I can get reimbursed for my truck which has a standard transmission.
    Many people forget that America’s laws are also here to protect the minority from majority persecution. Ignorance in America has caused our society to loose sight of what America stands for.