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Several states – including Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine, and Oregon – have banned adults from smoking in a car while a child is present, according to nonprofit organization Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). Today, Virginia failed to do so, per The Virginia-Pilot.

If Del. Joe Morrissey’s bill had passed, smokers would have been fined $100 for lighting up with a child under age 13 in the vehicle.

Del. Ben Cline, however, helped tie the bill at 3-3 and stated that such a law was an imposition on private property. “I’m not inclined to cross that line myself,” he said. “It’s poor parenting to expose children to second-hand smoke, but is it the state’s responsibility to enforce it? I don’t think so.”

ASH contends that many states protect adults from secondhand smoke by banning smoking in bars, yet those same states do nothing to protect children.

“[C]hildren – who are far more sensitive to tobacco smoke because their lungs and … bodily defense mechanisms are still developing, because they inhale far more pollutants per pound of body weight than adults, and because they are more likely to have allergies or other conditions which make them more sensitive to airborne pollutants – have no choice but to be strapped into rolling smokehouses with one or more smoking adults,” its website stated. “They cannot refuse to go, cannot get out of the car if necessary, cannot move away from the source of the smoke, and no one will hear or heed their cries.”

New Jersey nonprofit organization Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy added that infants “cannot communicate that the smoking is harming them, other than to cough, exhibit respiratory distress, and show other symptoms.”

Though Americans have a right to privacy, it continued, the government has an obligation to children’s health and safety. To that end, 17 states forbid smoking in vehicles that transport foster children, and every state mandates child safety seats to prevent potential accidents and injuries. Shouldn’t we also protect them from chemicals that have been proven to cause cancer?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “The Surgeon General has concluded that there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure. Even brief exposures can be harmful.”

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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