Legislation would make it illegal for children to possess tobacco
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Legislation the House passed Thursday would make it illegal for children to possess or consume tobacco products.
Ohio law prohibits retailers from selling children cigarettes, but does not prohibit children from having or using tobacco.
The Senate, which previously passed a similar version of the bill, must approve the House's minor changes before the measure goes to Gov. Bob Taft.
``This bill is not meant to criminalize children'' but rather to discourage them from smoking, said Rep. John Willamowski, R-Lima. ``We can talk the talk about talking to kids about smoking, but we must walk the walk also.''
Children caught with tobacco products would be required to select from one of two alternatives: either appear in court with their parents to answer to the charges, or sign a form waiving the appearance and pay a $100 fine and court costs.
Should the child and parent not appear in court, a judge could impose a $100 fine and require the child to attend an educational program about youth smoking.
Rep. Catherine Barrett, D-Cincinnati, said the fine was too high and should be reduced to $50. Rep. John Barnes, D-Cleveland, said court costs should not be included.
But Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin, R-Aurora, said the point of the legislation is to get children into anti-smoking programs.
She said lawmakers are hoping parents and children will decide they would rather have a court hearing than pay the fine, opening the door for a judge to sanction them to the programs.