Girl Scouts fight to change a smoking law in Aurora

There is a Girl Scout troop in Aurora that is baking up an idea that will outlast the shelf life of your Thin Mints

Just because the next words in the story are "Girl Scouts" doesn't mean you should start thinking about cookies.

There is a Girl Scout troop in Aurora that is baking up an idea that will outlast the shelf life of your Thin Mints.

"We are working on our Silver Award project and, tonight, we would like to propose some future ordinance for not smoking in a car with a minor present," said Amelia Malchow, from Girl Scout Troop #60789 during a Sept. 25 Aurora City Council meeting.

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Malchow, along with Makenna Batcho, Micaela Morrill, Julianna Martin and Sofia Aarestad came up with the idea for the ordinance while trying to earn the Silver Award.

The Silver Award is given to middle school-aged Girl Scouts, who work in small groups to develop an idea that benefits the community while demonstrating knowledge of sustainability.

They're also combining the Silver Award with an effort to earn an environment badge.

"We thought it was a hazard for minors to experience their guardians' smoking," said Batcho.

"It will help minors," said Malchow.

"Be more healthy," said Morrill.

"To not suffer from secondhand smoke, and it's just better for the environment," said Malchow. "The purpose of Girl Scouts is truly to help make the world a better place."

There is precedent for this type of law. Eight states have some form of it.

"It'd be cool if we could get it to the state," said Batcho.

"But it's a big accomplishment if we could just get it at city council," said Malchow.

The states that have enacted laws like this differ in how old the minor can be before it's a crime.

  • Arkansas - 13 and younger
  • California -17 and younger
  • Louisiana - 12 and younger
  • Maine - 15 and younger
  • Oregon - 17 and younger
  • Utah - 15 and younger
  • Vermont - 8 and younger
  • Virginia - 7 and younger

"It's been one of the most gratifying experiences of my service on city council," said Aurora City Councilman Charlie Richardson.

He's presenting the ordinance at the study session, but already has some changes in mind.

Right now, the law would be a primary offense, meaning officers could pull you over if they saw you smoking and suspect your passengers are younger than 18. Even the state's seat belt law requires officers to see another infraction, like speeding, before pulling you over for not wearing a seat belt.

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"As part of the legislative process, I'll be working with them to possibly amend the ordinance to a secondary offense," said Richardson. "We would avoid a lot of the questions about whether it should be a reason to be pulled over in the first place."

The scouts also want the fine to be $150, as well as no less than 48 hours of community service.

"I'm going to challenge my colleagues to vote against the Girl Scouts. I hope they think twice," said Richardson.

"If we don't get it through, we'll be disappointed, but we got it this far," said Malchow.

"It'd be cool if we got it passed, but if it doesn't, we still earn (our badge and award) because we went through the process of it," said Batcho.