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Day 34: Why I voted for HB 13 (Prohibiting Smoking in Cars with Children)

March 3, 2013

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HB 13 prohibits smoking in a vehicle when children age 15 and younger are passengers. The bill protects Utah’s children – those who have little or no control over those smoking around them – from the serious, avoidable health hazards of second-hand smoke (SHS) in vehicles.

The worst place for children to be exposed to SHS is a small, enclosed place such as a car, where the concentration of SHS is about 27 times greater than in other settings. Subjecting a child to SHS in an enclosed area is actually more dangerous than having a child smoke a filtered cigarette in a large, open space. In Utah adults cannot buy cigarettes for children nor force children to smoke, yet they are able to blow SHS into a child’s face while the child is strapped in a car seat with nowhere else to go.

In 2007, the Surgeon General reported, “Second-hand smoke contains more than 250 chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic (cancer-causing)…Children who are exposed to SHS are inhaling many of the same cancer-causing substances and poisons as smokers.” In 2010, the Surgeon General released a report on involuntary exposure to SHS, again stating that SHS causes disease and death in children.

  • Children’s lungs and bodies are still developing, which makes SHS particularly dangerous. Children breathe more rapidly than adults and inhale larger quantities of toxins when exposed.
  • Exposing infants to SHS disrupts lung function and increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Exposing children to SHS increases asthma, middle ear disease, pneumonia, upper respiratory infection, heart disease, cancer, meningitis and mental illness.
  • Rolling down the window does not significantly decrease a child’s exposure to SHS.
  • A study published in late 2012 concludes that laws prohibiting smoking in cars with children are very effective in protecting children from SHS. Conversely, voluntary measures have limited value.
  • According to a 2011 survey, 83% of Utahns support this type of legislation (with stronger penalties)

Currently, Utah law prohibits smoking in a number of public places, and in many cases on private property, including home daycare centers, public and private schools, public transportation, restaurants, shopping malls, and theaters. Utah also has laws to safeguard vulnerable children who cannot protect themselves, including:

  • Prohibition on giving tobacco or alcohol to minors
  • Prohibitions on abusing minors
  • Prohibitions on leaving a child in a car that is excessively hot or cold
  • Requirements that children sit in car seats

All of these laws weigh the health of children against other rights and reflect the Utah Legislature’s desire to protect the health of our children.

HB 13 makes smoking in vehicles when children are passengers a secondary offense. Also, until July 1, 2014, peace officers may only issue a warning for violations. After that date, violators may be fined up to $45. This penalty can be waived if the violator enrolls in a smoking cessation program. There is an exception for convertibles if the top is down.

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One Comment
  1. Sandra Mountcastle permalink

    The role of government is NOT to take on the parenting of children. Protecting the Constitutional rights of individuals is the role of government. By passing an essentially unenforcable bill such as this government is invading the privacy of the individual.

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