The Maryland Senate wants to prohibit drivers from smoking in cars if a child under the age of 8 is a passenger.
Senators signed off on the bill in a 27-19 vote Wednesday.
Proponents of the legislation said they chose the 8-year-old standard because police officers will know if a child is under 8 years old because until that age children are required to ride in car seats.
They pointed to studies that they say prove smoking in a car, even with the windows open, fills the vehicle with dangerous levels of toxins.
Some said it is the responsibility of lawmakers to protect children who cannot otherwise keep themselves away from second-hand smoke.
“The science is clear,” said Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s. “It endangers the life of these children. If we do nothing, we are, by taking no action, by our inaction, condoning threatening the life of young people who have no voice.”
Drivers who violate the regulation could be fined up to $50 under the proposed legislation.
Opponents of the bill said it oversteps the boundaries of government by regulating legal behavior in private property.
Sen. Nancy Jacobs, R-Harford, supported the bill earlier this month in the Judicial Proceedings Committee, but said she had a change of heart and believes the legislation gives police officers overreaching authority.
“Just because somebody has a car seat they can stop you to check and that bothers me, so I’m going to do something that I don’t normally ever do, I’m going to vote against a bill that I voted for in committee,” said Jacobs, who told other Senators that she is a former smoker who has asthma and emphysema.
The bill now moves to Maryland’s House of Delegates for consideration.
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