Charleston, W.Va. (AP) - Smoking in cars with children has been banned in 11 states, and lawmakers are pushing to join in in West Virginia, where the disease has a higher prevalence than anywhere else in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adults use cigarettes. Control and prevention.
The state Senate passed a bill Monday that would impose fines on anyone 16 years of age or younger caught smoking or having a lit tobacco product in a vehicle. The bill passed on a 25-8 vote and now heads to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation has failed and faces an uncertain future.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, a doctor-turned-legislator, long ago promised a patient whose father was a heavy smoker that he would try to ban smoking in vehicles carrying children in West Virginia. Takubo has made an almost annual effort since 2017 to introduce legislation, but it has not gained momentum.
The Kanawha County Republican and lung doctor said the inspiration for the bill was a patient who did not smoke but had lost half of his lung function. "When her father smoked, she had to climb under the car and put her head under the seat," Takubo said.
Violators face a misdemeanor subject to a maximum $25 fine. But this would be a secondary offence: smoking with children cannot be the main reason for stopping a driver.
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Wood County Republican Senator Mike Azinger said the state has no right to infringe on parents' freedoms.
"The arguments in favor of the bill are essentially emotional arguments," Azinger said. “This is a curtailment of the fundamental rights of parents to make decisions about their children in their vehicle. This is a state where it has no business being there.”
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