Eight ‘no’ votes in chamber come from several members of the newly formed West Virginia Freedom Caucus, with Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, citing concerns over parental rights


The state Senate on Monday passed a bill to prohibit adults from smoking in cars with minors, marking the first time in 10 years that either body of the Legislature has considered — much less approved — the proposed legislation.

Senate Bill 378 levies a $25 fine for anyone over 18 who is pulled over for a separate offense but is found to be smoking in the car with children under 16. The bill, in several different forms, has been introduced in both chambers of the Legislature nearly annually since 2014, but this is the first year it has made it through one body despite largely bipartisan support.

Proponents for the bill — including several doctors in the Senate and the House — have said the legislation is meant to, at least, start a conversation about the very real harm of secondhand smoke on children.

“This bill isn’t meant to be a bill that is put out there so that people can start pulling cars over and giving tickets. This is more of a public service announcement,” said Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Ohio, who is a physician by trade. “If you smoke in a car … you’re going to do some permanent damage to [a child’s] lungs, and long after you’re gone, they’re going to still be suffering or could be suffering.”

Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, has introduced the bill for years in honor of a patient of his who had never smoked in her life, but who only had 50% lung function because of long term exposure to secondhand smoke in her father’s car.

“There is no one who loves their child more than their parents,” Takubo said during discussion on the floor. “If anything else, [this bill] just brings the discussion to the minds or the forefront of what [parents] could be doing to their child.”

The legislation passed the Senate 25-8, with one member absent and not voting. Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, was the only lawmaker to speak against the bill. He repeated arguments against the bill that he has made in committee meetings for years.

“I know the good intentions of the gentlemen that are pushing the bill — I do have to make the contrast of the fact that the arguments for the bill are essentially emotional arguments,” Azinger said. “My arguments against the bill would be that this is a cut against the fundamental rights of parents. Parents making the decision over their children, in their vehicle. This is the state going where it has no business going.”

Azinger, along with several members of the newly formed West Virginia Freedom Caucus who joined him in voting against the bill Tuesday, have historically not expressed the same concerns when voting to limit the rights of parents in other areas — including limiting access to medically sound gender affirming care for children and abortion services, both examples that only occurred with parental consent.

SB 378 previously passed the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources, where Azinger was the sole no vote. It now advances to the House for consideration, where it could face another uphill battle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *