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Petersen, Howell Vote for Ban on Smoking in Car With Kids

Virginia Senate bill prohibits smoking in a vehicle when carrying kids aged 15 or younger.

By Paige Baxter, Capital News Service

The Senate today 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 — including Vienna's senators Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and Janet Howell (D-Reston) — 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.

Keep track of the issues Vienna's legislators are supporting on our Virginia General Assembly 2013 topic page, or, our daily email newsletter.

Patch Editor William Callahan reported for this story.

thomaslaprade February 01, 2013 at 09:43 AM
Parents know best, While I appreciate the desire to protect children from second-hand smoke exposure in cars, I'm afraid that the suggestion to ban smoking in cars occupied by children represents an unwarranted intrusion into the privacy and autonomy of parenthood. The autonomy to make one's own decision about what risks to subject a child to is not to be interfered with lightly. It should only be done in cases where there is a substantial threat of severe harm to the child. Interfering with parental autonomy in a case where there is only minor risk involved is unwarranted. Thomas Laprade
Kelley Chandler February 01, 2013 at 09:34 PM
I disagree with you Thomas. While it would be amazing if all parents knew best for their children the sad truth is they don't. Any parent willing to expose their children to secondhand smoke clearly does not know what is best for them. Until a child reaches the age of 18 and can decided for themselves that they want to smoke they should not be exposed to it. I have seen parents smoke an entire cigarett with the windows rolled up and an infant in the backseat.. do you really think that is what is best for the child? Open your eyes.
Thomas Laprade February 03, 2013 at 04:31 AM
And what if the windows were rolled down..is that OK?
Thomas Laprade February 03, 2013 at 04:32 AM
Don't forget..your car is just an extension of your home
Thomas Laprade February 03, 2013 at 06:29 AM
If we extended the argument of the supporters of this proposed legislation, then we would also have to support laws that regulate a wide range of parental activity that takes place in the private home which places children at increased risk of adverse health effects. We would have to ban parents from smoking in the home. We would have to ban parents from drinking more than a drink or two at a time in the home. We would have to ban parents from using insecticides and pesticides. We would have to ban parents from allowing their children out in the sun without sunscreen. We would have to ban parents from allowing their children to ride giant roller coasters. We would have to ban parents from serving their children foods that contain trans-fats. We would have to ban parents from serving their children peanuts before age 3. We would have to ban parents from allowing their children to drink soda that contains sodium benzoate and citric acid.

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