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Senate Votes to Ban Smoking in Cars with Children Present

McLean Sens. Favola, Howell support a bill to ban smoking in vehicles when a child 15 years old or younger is present.

By Paige Baxter, Capital News Service

The Senate Thursday passed a bill to prohibit smoking in a vehicle when a child under 15 is present.

Senators voted 30-10 for the bill, which now goes to the House of Delegates for consideration. All Democrats supported the bill, along with half of the Senate Republicans.

Under Senate Bill 975, proposed by Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Virginia Beach and Norfolk), people who violate the proposed law would face a civil penalty of $100.

On the floor of the Senate, Northam said the legislation was inspired by a third-grader who told Northam his parents smoke in the car with him.

“It will protect our children and improve their health and in the end hopefully cut down on health care costs,” Northam said.

Northam’s bill is one of three smoking bans still making their way through the General Assembly.

A House bill, HB 2309, would ban smoking in health care facilities. It is awaiting a vote in the House General Laws Committee.

Another bill in the Senate, SB 1253, would give local governments the authority to ban smoking in public areas such as parks and beaches. The Senate Local Government Committee approved this proposal, 11-4; it is now before the full Senate.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed its attorney this winter to look into the legality of smoking bans on county property, required courses that would encourage quitting and the consideration of tobacco use in a person’s hiring.

The board would need General Assembly authority to enact the first, its lawyer said; the county can mandate smoking cessation classes for county employees but it cannot require them to "pass" the class or quit smoking.

In 2009, the Board succeeded in banning smoking under bus shelters, but extending that ban to parks and school areas would require the state to sign off as well.

How They Voted

Here is how senators voted on SB 975 on third reading. The bill passed, 30-10.

YEAS – Alexander, Barker, Blevins, Colgan, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Hanger, Herring, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Marsh, McEachin, McWaters, Miller, Newman, Norment, Northam, Petersen, Puckett, Puller, Reeves, Saslaw, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Watkins – 30.

NAYS – Black, Carrico, Garrett, Martin, McDougle, Obenshain, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Wagner – 10.

Patch Editor William Callahan reported for this story.

Jonik February 02, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Have any doctors or safety experts provided input into this idea to ban smoking in cars? Legislators have ignored or are unaware of the dangers of driving while going through Cold Turkey withdrawal from smoking. Some effects are irritation (road rage?), distraction, appetite increase, and sleepiness (sometimes without warning). Also, it's likely that many will do all sorts of distracting tricks to hide the cigarette if a police car is near. Smoking produces alertness...a good thing when driving. It reduces stress (less chance of road rage). It reduces appetite to perhaps minimize distracting eating while driving, it fends off sleepiness, and it provides a pleasant change from the monotony of driving, especially on long trips. Has even one young car passenger been diagnosed as having been harmed by smoke in a car? If not, there is no health justification for such bans. When a driver, experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms, creates an accident, will police note that the smoke ban was contributor? Or will legislators immunize themselves from responsibility by blaming the driver? Have civil rights groups weighed in about how this law provides yet another pretense for police to stop and search motorists, even if they just have a lollypop in their mouth ("probable cause") or a passenger who "looks" "under age"? Do young people now need to carry ID to prove they are old enough to handle 2nd hand smoke? Search up "Fauxbacco" to see what else legislators ignore.
spage February 02, 2013 at 07:16 PM
The effects of second hand smoke are well documented in children as well as adults. You have discounted all the distractions of smokers: dropping a lit cigarette and hot ashes into laps and car seats, flipping buts and smoke out of windows, opening windows while driving to throw ashes and butts and smoke out, lighting up, snuffing out, looking for cigarettes, and so on. I have not noticed any difference in the driving habits of smokers and nonsmokers as far as being relaxed, not eating, or any of the other specious arguments above. On the practical side, it seems like a good idea, or at any rate, an idea to think about. I don't think they can enforce it without a whole lot of hassle and aggravation to every driver. Civil rights or not, it is a shame that people need to be told to not do harmful things around their children, and that there may be a need to get the government involved to get some folks to pay attention.
Jonik February 04, 2013 at 10:59 PM
Businesses need to be told not to do harmful things, but public officials, with so many economic links to those businesses, let them do more harmful things than can be listed. Re/ smoking and kids, our public officials allow cigarette makers to contaminate products with any of about 450 pesticides, many dioxin-creating chlorine chemicals and chlorine-bleached paper, heaps of kid-attracting sweets, flavorings, aromas and soothing substances, and even burn accelerants that help cause fires that injure and kill kids and their parents and siblings. Our sworn and paid officials don't humanely warn anyone or require specific warnings or ingredients lists on packages. Nor do those officials work to get compensation for victims for harms and for being treated as Guinea pigs, without informed consent. Then those officials stand on their heads to blame the deceived, secretly poisoned victims. Officials point to studies about "ETS", environmental tobacco smoke, even though no studies clarify what was "studied". Was it plain tobacco? Was it the highly-adulterated, pesticide-drenched, dioxin-delivering kind? Or was it fake tobacco made, in patented ways, from all sorts of (non-organic) industrial waste cellulose? We don't know, and are not told. Those Very Harmful cig adulterants (and more) are ignored and approved by the very officials who now feign "concern for kids". The cold, ruthless hypocrisy, and lack of science, in this matter is off the charts.

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