State senators began debate on a bill Tuesday that would make it illegal to smoke inside a car if a child is present, 10 years old or younger. The bill has opened a can of worms on the issue of citizens’ rights. Richland County Democrat Darrell Jackson expects the bill to pass, since it passed the Senate last year. Jackson says the dangers of secondhand smoke are well known. “There’s a recent Harvard Medical Review study that concluded that smoking in cars with children is more dangerous than smoking in a bar.”
Lexington County Republican Jake Knotts, a retired police officer, questioned if such a law would open the door to unnecessary stops by law enforcement. “What if an officer stops a car? Are they going to be able to pull everything out of that car, as some jurisdictions do?”
York Senator Mick Mulvaney, a primary oppoent of the bill, supports the intention, but said it would be unfair. “Statiscally speaking, we’re probably talking about people who’re on the lower end economically, and you have a policeman pull them over. They may have had encounters with police in the past. You put them in a very uncomfortable situation.”
The parent in the car would be ticketed for violations, up to a $100 fine. Mulvaney says when a parent or child would be questioned about the child’s age, it would be an unnecessary violation of American freedoms. “That’s the kind of freedom I’m talking about. It’s not the freedom to smoke a cigarette in a car. It’s not a freedom to hurt your child. It’s a freedom not to be put in that situation by your government, where you have to speak against yourself, or instruct your child not to speak against you, or to put your child in a position to have to speak against you.”
But Jackson says there is precident for the bill, that South Carolina is not the only state considering it. “Since we introduced this bill two years ago, four other states have passed this bill. Nineteen other states are considering very similar legislation.”
Debate on the legislation was carried over to Wednesday.