Virginia Senate panel backs smoking in car restriction

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Associated Press and 13News

Posted on January 29, 2013 at 6:44 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 29 at 6:44 AM

RICHMOND (AP) -- A Virginia Senate committee has endorsed legislation making it illegal for adults to smoke with kids in the car.

The Courts of Justice Committee voted 10-5 Monday to send Senator Ralph Northam's (D-6th District) bill, SB 1106, to the Senate floor.

"When kids are exposed to second-hand smoke, the incidents of asthmatic attacks, of pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infections, and, then, a lot of people don't realize this, but SIDS, which is the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, those are all increased, the risk of those, when these children are exposed to second-hand smoke," Northam told 13News.

Besides serving in the Virginia Senate, Northam is a pediatric neurologist at Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters.

He explained that during a visit to an elementary school a few years ago, a 3rd-grade student told him he didn't like riding in a car in which people were smoking. Northam promised the student he'd see what he could do.

"Being exposed for an hour in a car is the equivalent of smoking 10 cigarettes," Northam said, "and, so, for a child to be smoking 10 cigarettes, we can do better than that."
 
The 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. Similar legislation failed in the General Assembly 2 years ago.

"I literally cringe when I pull up next to a car and there is a parent or an adult smoking and the kids are in the car," shared Kelly Burke Jennings who is a mother and who teaches Health and Physical Education."

Jennings also is co-founder of the Race for Breath, an annual running event that benefits The Lung Cancer Alliance. Jennings mother died of lung cancer.

"It's your kids' health. Why put your kids' health in jeopardy, you know? You can choose to put your own health in jeopardy, but why put your kids' at risk, too?" Jennings asked.

Nedra Brodie smokes, but doesn't do it when her son is in the car with her. Despite her choice, she doesn't believe legislation preventing people from lighting up is appropriate.

"I don't think that is right because, I mean, people is entitled to do what they want to do in their vehicles, and, I mean, it is their child," said Brodie.
 
The American Cancer Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics supported Northam's bill. Nobody spoke against it before the committee voted.

Northam told 13News he thinks the bill will clear the Senate but that the House of Delegates, which didn't pass a similar bill, may view it as government interference into people's lives.

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