House Bill 13, sponsored by Rep. Patrice Arent (D-Millcreek), would make smoking in a vehicle with children a secondary offense, punishable with a fine up to $45. On Tuesday, the Utah House Health and Human Services Committee approved the measure and sent it to the full House for consideration. (Click here to view bill)
The committee approved the bill by a vote of 6-to-2. Opponents of the bill have voiced concern that it would grant the government too far a reach into people's private lives.
However, Rep. Arent said it's an important public health purpose that trumps personal privacy.
"I don't take lightly telling the public what they can do in their cars unless it is for a very important health or public safety purpose," she told the committee.
If it is passed, the bill prohibits smoking inside of a vehicle when it includes any passenger under the age of 15. Rep. Arent said the citation would be waived if the offending driver subsequently enrolled in a 'stop smoking' program. Additionally, officers would only issue written warnings for the law's first year.
Critics of the measure said that parents should be allowed to make their own determinations regarding what is safe or unsafe for their children.
"I don't really believe this bill is about cars or smoking," said Dalane England of the Utah Eagle Forum. "This bill is about who is the best parent. It's about our freedom versus our security."
The Salt Lake Tribune contributed to this report
- House Bill 13, Protection of Children Riding in Motor Vehicles