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New bill could ban drivers from smoking with young child in the backseat

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LYNCHBURG (WSLS 10) - Lighting up in your car with a youngster in tow could soon cost you a $100 fine. A new bill on Governor's Terry McAuliffe's desk could make it illegal for a driver to smoke cigarettes with a child under eight in the backseat.

"It appears to be legislation that's tailored to protecting minors from the well-known dangers of second hand smoke," said Joseph Martins, an Associate Professor of Law and Liberty University.

The violation would be a secondary offense.

Supporters said it could save lives, but critics argue the bill violates their rights.

"I'm completely for it," said Daniel Meeks, who lives in Roanoke.  "Where I'm from in Illinois, it's already been passed through the legislation. Second hand smoke is a killer."

However, others say this is an intrusion of individual's rights. Martins explains government is supposed to protect people, even little ones.

"The larger question is: to what extent does ‘we the people' need to regulate ourselves when it comes to private conduct or to what extent do we want to have the government regulate us," said Martins.

Martins added nearly half a dozen other states have adopted similar policies. However, this is a tricky matter; courts have already banned smoking in some indoor public places, but the law recognizes the "home" differently.

"Not only is the constitution, the common law, all the way back to the bible...it's been recognized the home is a unique sphere where there's more liberty for the family," Martins told us.

Now it's up to Governor McAuliffe to decide. The Senate passed the bill in early March. Governor McAuliffe has until April 11th to sign it. If approved, the law would take effect July first.