Believe It Or Not, Smoking In Cars With Children Is Still Legal In Most States

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 
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Virginia is about to become the ninth state to outlaw smoking in cars with kids

Would it shock you to learn that a measly eight states (including Puerto Rico) have laws on the books making it illegal to smoke in a car with children? It should, because in 2016, that’s absolutely ridiculous.

According to PopSugar, the state of Virginia is about to become the ninth state to outlaw smoking in a car with children inside, providing a bill approved by the state Senate and House is signed by the governor. This is great news, but how is this not already outlawed all over the country? There’s no justification for trapping innocent kids in a car full of cancer fumes, yet, it’s permitted in most states.

The EPA says that secondhand smoke exposure “increases the frequency of episodes and the severity of symptoms” for children who have asthma. It’s estimated that between 200,000 and 1,000,000 asthmatic kids experience this worsening of symptoms as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke.

So, it’s not as though this is some arbitrary measure being passed to generate more money through cops issuing tickets. Secondhand smoke is a real health threat, especially to little children with developing lungs and no say in the matter. If mommy or daddy decide to smoke in the car, they just get to marinate in that poison air whether they want to or not. If there are parents so stupid they trap their little ones in a car full of cigarette smoke, then the law has to step in to protect them.

Not everyone agrees, however. Kerry Dougherty writes in an essay for The Virginian-Pilot that smoking is still legal and suggested that this bill could lead to others restricting the rights of smokers. “Besides, once a law is passed to prohibit smoking in cars, could a ban on smoking in private homes – when kids are present – be far behind?”

Um, that doesn’t sound too outlandish, actually. Of course it would be tough to enforce, but having it on the books would be a strong message to send. Come on. Is there any situation where it’s acceptable to smoke where children breathe? We should have all kinds of laws protecting kids from this brand of adult selfishness and stupidity.

We need to get with the program. It’s 2016, not 1962. Our country accepted long ago that secondhand smoke is harmful and many laws have been passed restricting where people can and can’t do it. God, you could go to a bar and drink all night without smelling a single whiff of cigarette smoke thanks to sweeping legislation making it illegal to smoke in bars and restaurants in all but 16 states. But in 32 states, the law still won’t protect kids from secondhand smoke while stuck in a car with stupid adults? I call bullshit.

Dougherty also argues that instead of fining people for smoking in cars with kids, we should instead educate them on the dangers of smoking with children in the car. That’s a lovely notion but the public at large has known for the last several decades that exposing kids to secondhand smoke is a big no-no. If someone doesn’t know that by now, a poster at the DMV or a 30-second commercial isn’t going to change their behavior. They’re probably a lost cause and hitting them in the wallet is the only way to get through.

When parents and caretakers aren’t smart enough to protect their children, it’s up to the law to step in. Secondhand smoke could have lifelong health consequences for a kid — this is not the time to worry about a parent’s personal freedom and whether smoking is still legal. We need to keep children as safe and healthy as possible and any laws that support that goal are laws we should applaud. End of story.

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