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Lawmakers OK law barring smoking in car with kids

By By ANNIE KNOX

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A proposal in the state Legislature would make it illegal for Utah drivers to smoke in their cars if they have a child as a passenger.

A Legislative committee approved a bill Tuesday making it a secondary offense to smoke while driving with a passenger younger than 16 years old. That means an officer couldn't pull someone over for smoking with a child but could enforce the law while stopping a driver for another violation.

Smoking with a child in the car would result in a warning for the first instance and a $45 fine the second time.

Rep. Patrice Arent, a Democrat from Salt Lake City, said child safety trumps adults' personal freedoms, and secondhand smoke in confined spaces "causes a lifetime in damage to the child."

Republican Rep. Mike Kennedy, of Alpine, disagreed, saying that if the state bans smoking in cars with kids, lawmakers should similarly restrict smoking in the home.

Similar legislation failed to pass in 2010 and 2011 after lawmakers argued that the bills infringed on personal freedoms.

At Tuesday's hearing of the House Health and Human Services Committee, Tom Metcalfe, a former University of Utah pediatrician, said he frequently saw children with asthma attacks caused by secondhand smoke in the 1970s and 80s.

"I now have to liken smoking in the car with a child aboard to child abuse. You don't see it with bruises and broken bones," he said. "We have to say that this kid's health is more important to us than a caretaker's habit."

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