West Virginia lawmakers are seeking to ban smoking in cars with children – LSB

Garima
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  • The West Virginia Senate passed a bill Monday that would ban smoking or possession of combusted tobacco products inside vehicles in which individuals under 16 are present.
  • If enacted, the proposal would make doing so a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $25 — however, it would only be punished as a secondary crime.
  • The bill, which the state Senate approved by a 25-8 vote, now heads to the House of Delegates, where its fate remains unclear.

Smoking in cars with children is banned in 11 states, and lawmakers are seeking to join them in West Virginia, where more adults use cigarettes than anywhere else in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state Senate on Monday passed a bill that calls for fines for anyone caught smoking or having a combusted tobacco product in a vehicle when someone 16 or younger is present. The bill was approved by a vote of 25 to 8, and now heads to the House of Delegates, where similar legislation has failed and faces an uncertain future.

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Senate Majority Leader Tom Tacopo, a doctor-turned-legislator, made a long-time promise to a patient whose father was a heavy smoker that he would try to ban smoking in vehicles carrying children in West Virginia. Takupo has made an almost annual effort since 2017 to introduce legislation, but it has not gained traction.

Tom Takopo

West Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tom Tacopo, a Republican, at the state Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, on Wednesday, January 8, 2020. (AP Photo/John Raby, File)

The pulmonologist and Kanawha County Republican said the inspiration for the bill was a patient who was not a smoker but had lost half her lung function. When her father smoked, “she had to get under the car and put her head under the seat,” Takopo said.

Violators will face a misdemeanor subject to a maximum fine of $25. But it will be a secondary crime: smoking in the presence of children cannot be the main reason for stopping a driver.

Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood County, said the state has no right to infringe on parents’ freedoms.

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“The arguments supporting the bill are essentially emotional,” Azinger said. “This is a curtailment of the fundamental rights of parents who decide whether their children are in their car. This is a country that is going where it has no room to go.”

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