RICHMOND, Va. – Smoking in a car with children younger than eight soon could be a crime in Virginia under a bill passed by the House of Delegates on Friday.
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 will move to the Senate next week.
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.
Delegates debated the bill on Wednesday and then postponed a vote on it Thursday. When the bill came up for a final vote early Friday afternoon, it was approved.
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.