Child Safety: Lawmakers should pass SB 81

Parents already know their children must be buckled up, possibly in the right car seat or booster seat, when riding in the back seat. (Until they are 13, then they may ride in the front, but must still be buckled up.) It is the law. Violating that law is a primary offense, meaning an officer can pull over a vehicle in which he or she suspects a child is not properly restrained. That law was put in place for the safety of the children riding in a car where they might otherwise be at the mercy of poor decision-making on the part of an adult driver.

It seems, then, as though West Virginia Senate Bill 81 should be a no-brainer. The bill would prohibit smoking or vaping in a vehicle with a minor present. Smoking and vaping are harmful not only to the health of the smoker, but of anyone trapped in a confined space with them, and the second-hand smoke or vapor that could cause plenty of long-term health issues. Forget about the example being set by the adult for an impressionable child who will one day face a choice about smoking or vaping.

State Senate Health and Human Resources Committee Chairman Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, introduced the bill last week, but does not have much hope it will move forward.

“The personal freedom-type people in my own caucus are opposed to it, and believe you can’t tell a parent what to do,” he said.

That is a real shame, particularly when one considers this same group of folks has no problem stepping in to stop what some others see as a personal freedom issue when it comes to the life of a baby who is at the mercy of the decision-making of an adult.

“Smoke causes problems — everyone knows that,” Maroney said. “But when it’s in an enclosed space, it’s a bigger problem.”

Children should not have to suffer through that kind of assault on their health.

SB 81 would make smoking or vaping with a child in the car a secondary offense, meaning an officer would not be able to pull over a vehicle solely for that reason. Offenders would be fined a mere $25, which would go into the tobacco education fund.

Rather than resisting this bill and letting it die in committee, legislators should be clamoring to make it law.