A tough bill that would have prohibited smoking in 80 percent of Utah restaurants was "gutted" by a Senate committee Monday and sent to the Senate for further action.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, vowed to remove the committee's amendment on the floor.Hillyard and public health officials from throughout the state want to prohibit smoking in public restaurants and eateries that don't have a state liquor license. Of the 2,800 restaurants, only about 18 percent have liquor licenses - so the bill would ban smoking in more than 80 percent of the state's restaurants.

Hillyard admits it's a tough measure. But in defending his bill Monday he said that much like the open air nuclear testing of the 1950s - which caused cancer in some Utahns - secondhand cigarette smoke is causing cancer in Utahns today.

Sen. Karen Shepherd, D-Salt Lake, took exception to Hillyard's analogy, saying banning smoking from non-liquor licensed restaurants could harm those establishments' business. She and Sen. Craig Peterson, R-Orem, also object to tying cigarette smoking to alcohol.

The smoker would be forced to go to a restaurant where he could also drink, may well drink under that circumstance and then drive home. "We could be forcing people into those kind of situations. I don't want to tie smoking to alcohol," Peterson said.

Shepherd got the committee to amend the bill so that restaurant owners who want to allow smoking would only have to place a large sign in the front window of the building saying smoking is permitted and warning that smoking is hazardous to one's health. Hillyard said the amendment "guts" his bill and he'll seek its removal in the Senate.