(KCPW News) A group of doctors and school children were at Utah’s Capitol on Friday, trying to secure support from lawmakers for a bill that would ban smoking in cars when children under age 15 are present.
Dr. Kevin Nelson, a pediatrician from the University of Utah, and Chair of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Utah said that medical research supports the bill. “Smoking in a car is about the worst place that a child can be exposed to tobacco smoke,” he said. “Children who are exposed to tobacco smoke have more pneumonia, they develop asthma, their asthma’s worse.”
Nelson said that the long-term healthcare costs associated with smoking are too great to be ignored.
“Not only are their children not as healthy, but they’re also going to be at the doctor more and the healthcare costs for their families, and also that we as Utahns share with them, are going to be higher,” Nelson said.
House Bill 13 received committee approval on Tuesday – and is awaiting debate in the House. Democrat Representative Patrice Arent, the bill’s sponsor, says that her legislation is needed because children often don’t have a choice in the matter.
“Second hand smoke is so intense in a car that even within 5 minutes, even with the windows down, it can be doing damage to children because their lungs are developing,” she said.
The legislation is meant to help children who aren’t able to “just go somewhere else” when someone lights up in a car, Arent says.
“You know I have offered those few legislators that don’t understand this bill maybe as well as they should that we could do a field trip out to the airport and put them in the smoking room out there and strap them in for a while,” she said.
“No one’s taken me up on it.”
Her bill will likely be heard on the House Floor on Monday.