RICHMOND – State Sen. Ralph Northam’s effort to outlaw smoking in a vehicle with a child present was decisively snuffed out today.
The Norfolk Democrat, a pediatric neurologist, wanted to protect children from the dangers of second-hand smoke, which he said increases the risk of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory ailments.
His bill (SB975) would have made it a traffic offense, subject to a $100 civil penalty, to smoke in a vehicle with a child under 15 present. He said the idea for the measure came from a third-grader on the Eastern Shore who told him he worried about his health when a parent lit up a cigarette in the car.
The House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee tabled the Senate-passed bill on a 13-4 vote, meaning it won’t advance further. A similar House bill (HB1366) got the same treatment last month.
Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge County, said he was uncomfortable with “regulating a legal activity in a private space,” suggesting the next step might be banning smoking in people’s homes.
-Bill Sizemore, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot