Smoking in a car with kids soon may be illegal

Published 9:24 am Thursday, February 25, 2016

By Grant Smith

Capital News Service

Smoking in a car with children younger than 8-years-old soon could be a crime in Virginia under a bill passed by the House of Delegates recently.

The offense would involve a fine of $100 under House Bill 1348. Defined as a secondary offense, this civil penalty would apply only to individuals who have already pulled over by police for a traffic violation.

The House passed HB 1348 on a vote of 59-38. The bill has moved to the Senate.

The bill’s sponsor, Del. Todd E. Pillion, R-Abingdon, is a pediatric dentist. In support of the legislation, he has cited the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, especially on developing lungs.

Del. Matthew C. Farris, R-Campbell, and Del. Riley E. Ingram, R-Hopewell, responded in opposition. “We have a tendency here to tell everybody how to live. We tell them what to do, how to act,” Ingram said.

The measure defines smoking as any lighted cigarette, pipe or cigar. “It is unlawful for a person to smoke in a motor vehicle, whether in motion or at rest, when a minor under the age of eight is present in the motor vehicle,” the proposed law states.

Pillion said the bill covers passengers younger than 8-years-old because these children already are legally required to be put in car seats. He said this requirement could assist police officers in determining a child’s age.

Though subject to a $100 fine, individuals found guilty of violating the law would not face court costs or demerit points on their driving record.

Revenue from the fines would be credited to the state’s Literary Fund.

This program provides for low-interest loans for school construction, technology funding and support of teacher retirement.