RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill Tuesday that would fine people $100 for smoking in a car with a child under the age of eight.
The bill's patron is Delegate Todd E. Pillion, R, a pediatric dentist from Southwest Virginia.
Del. Pillion said that he sees many young patients coming in, suffering from chronic illnesses. He often smells smoke on their clothing and notices the children leaving his office getting into a car with their parents who are smoking.
The idea is to discourage anyone from smoking in a car where children are present. The bill is specific to children under eight years old simply because they are already required to be in car-seats so it will be easier for a responding officer to gauge their ages.
Those against the bill argue the government is overstepping and trying to take more money from people already paying taxes on their vehicles.
Del. Pillion dismissed the idea that this is an example of Virginia being a 'Nanny-State' and says, "If your nanny smoked with your kid in the car, you'd likely fire her."
Other arguments made against the bill include the concern that this is a slippery slope to banning unhealthy food or other unhealthy habits in the privacy of your own car or with your own children.
Del. Pillion explained that in his point of view, food, even fast food, could be argued to have benefits and nutrients. He pointed out that smoking, however, has no benefit or positive health impact.
When asked if this could be seen as government intruding in someone's privacy, Del. Pillion said, "This isn't about Big Brother government, it is about the little brother sitting in the back seat inhaling your smoke."
If the bill passes the final reading on Friday, the smoking ban would become a secondary offense.
The offense may be charged on a uniform traffic summons, according to legislative documents. People will not be charged unless they are pulled over for another traffic violation.
However, Del. Pillion said he is aiming more for health education over fining people for smoking.
The fines collected from the offense will go to the Literary Fund.
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