SALT LAKE CITY — The House passed a bill late Monday evening that would make it illegal for adults to smoke in cars when children are present.
The bill, which now moves to the Senate for its consideration, narrowly passed the House 39-35, after lawmakers expressed concern over what some called the "slippery slope" of reducing individual freedoms.
HB89 would make smoking in cars with kids 15 years and younger an infraction with a fine of up to $45 that could be waived if the driver enrolls in a smoking cessation course.
"Being able to say this is illegal is very, very important," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Salt Lake. Citing the damage second-hand smoke can do to children's lungs, ears and sinus cavities, Arent said the bill "must serve the purpose of protecting those who cannot protect themselves."
After initially failing to gain approval from the House Transportation Committee, the bill was sent to the House Health and Human Services Committee, where it was approved 7-2.
Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, made a motion to replace the fine a police officer would give to an offender with an information pamphlet on the dangers of smoking. The motion failed.
"Education without enforcement does not work," said Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, a Highway Patrol lieutenant.
Perry said it's ironic that the Legislature spends a lot of time on abortion-related legislation in an effort to protect unborn children, yet "the second they come out, we can start poisoning them and killing them."
Rep. Julie Fisher, R-Fruit Heights, said for people who are addicted to nicotine, "this law is not even going to cross their radar."
"I'd love to save everyone, but this is not the bill," Fisher said.
The bill's sponsor said it's already illegal to smoke in many public places, and "none of those places are as important as the small place of cars."
"Children don’t have the ability to stop adults from smoking in cars."