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In Utah, a bill that would outlaw smoking in cars when children are present (HB13) has passed the State Senate by a narrow 16-13 vote and is heading to Governor Gary Herbert for his approval and signature.
State law says that the governor has until April 3rd to act.
If the governor signs --and all indications are that he will-- Utah would become the sixth state to enact such a law. According to the Christian Science Monitor, many others are preparing to follow and impose similar restrictions.
As you might expect, a healthy debate is alive in Utah over the need to protect children from second-hand smoke versus the rights of individuals (parents), and, whether it's proper for government to intercede.
To its credit, the state bans cell phone usage and texting so it does take safe driving seriously. But, as well-intended as the HB13 may be, is it asking police to do something that is generally beyond their purview?
According to the Christian Science Monitor, Utah's bill prohibits adults from smoking in any vehicle containing children under the age of 16. The law would count as a secondary offense, meaning that an officer would have to pull someone over for another violation before citing her/him for smoking.
For the first year, there would be no fine for breaking the law. Afterward, the state would implement a $45 fee, which could be waived if the smoker agrees to enter a smoking cessation program. As in some other states, the law doesn't affect adults riding in convertibles with the top down.
Should a driver who is smoking be subject to new vehicle and traffic law? And, if the law is "secondary", meaning that the driver has to commit a more serious driving violation first and then the state will slap him with the secondary charge if he has a lit cigar or cigarette, isn't that really a poor excuse to penalize the motorist? If the state needs the money that badly, shouldn't they collect it whether or not the driver has one, two or three kids in the car? Or even none at all?
Now you can see why the vote in the State Senate was a narrow one.
Is this really where our government should be focusing its efforts? The intent is unquestionable, but the implementation expands the role of government and invades one's privacy. But, maybe it's ok to have that dust-up if it keeps our kids healthy!
If you don't like what they're considering in Utah, then you may be concerned when you hear which states may be coming up next...
If the governor signs the bill, Utah would join Arkansas, Louisiana, California, Hawaii, and Maine.
Other states considering similar legislation to restrict smoking when kids are present include: Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.