Virginia Considers Fining Smoking Drivers With Young Children in the Car
The Virginia House of Delegates (the lower of Virginia’s two legislative houses) has passed a bill that would let police issue $100 fines to drivers caught smoking in cars carrying children aged 7 or less. This isn’t to say that police could pull you over if they saw you smoking with a child in the car, because the fine could only be given as an additional penalty to drivers stopped for different reasons.
The bill is sponsored by Delegate Todd Pillion, a Republican pediatric dentist, who pitched the bill after several children came into his practice smelling strongly of cigarette smoke. Pillion chose the cut-off age of 7 because state law already requires children 7 and under to be in car seats, allowing police to more easily tell the child’s age. The bill would apply only to cigarettes or pipes (or, presumably, cigars), but excludes e-cigarettes.
Opponents of the bill argue that telling adults whether they can smoke or not in their car is overstepping government bounds, but Pillion responded by saying, “if your nanny smokes with your kid in the car, you’d likely fire her.”
If the law is passed, Virginia would be joining a growing crowd of states that ban smoking with children in the car, including Arkansas, Louisiana, California, Maine, Oregon, Utah, and Vermont. In addition, Florida has recently been considering its own car-smoking ban on children under 13. Ohio is also considering a bill to do the same for children under 6.
In Virginia, this bill is especially telling, though, as Richmond is home to Philip Morris, the tobacco division of Altria Group, Inc., which owns popular brands such as Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Parliament, Chesterfield, and Basic. However, it seems that Philip Morris also somewhat agrees with the bill, as it told Fox News that it will not be lobbying the bill and that “adults should avoid smoking around children.”