RICHMOND - The Virginia Senate has passed legislation making it illegal for adults to smoke with kids in the car.
The vote on Sen. Ralph Northam's bill was 30-10. It now goes to the House of Delegates, which historically is less receptive to such restrictions.
The Norfolk Democrat is a pediatric neurologist. He said on the Senate floor Thursday that second-hand smoke can contribute to a variety of health problems in children, including sudden infant death syndrome.
Northam's bill would prohibit smoking in a vehicle in the presence of a child under the age of 15. The offense would be charged as a traffic infraction punishable by a $100 fine.
The goal is to reduce the health risk of second hand smoke for children. The Environmental Protection Agency states secondhand smoke in cars can be especially harmful to children because cars are small, confined spaces where children are closer to the smoker and the smoke. A child’s still-developing lungs can be easily damaged by exposure to the high level of secondhand smoke in a car, the government warns.
According to the group Action on Smoking and Health, at least five states - Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine and Oregon, and also Puerto Rico - have already banned smoking in cars when children are present and others are considering it.
The group Tobacco Free Ca in California produced a video about the dangers of smoking with kids in the car.