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237055775 baa84ef9a8-300x237By Justin Snow for Marylandreporter.com

A controversial bill that would ban smoking in any vehicle with a passenger younger than 8 passed the state Senate 27-19 on Wednesday after debate that centered largely over the role of government.

 

Supporters argued that the bill was about protecting children from the toxins of secondhand smoke and cited a range of studies showing the negative effects tobacco products have on children. They said the age requirement was for enforcement reasons, noting that children younger than 8 are required to use a car seat, making it easier for police to spot.

“If we do nothing we are condoning threatening the life of young people who have no voice,” said Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s. Pinsky said the bill raised questions about what role government should play in light of science.

Although opponents did not disagree that scientific evidence affirms secondhand smoke is harmful, they warned of government intrusion into private life and the bill’s broader repercussions.

“Cheeseburgers are next,” cautioned Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin, arguing that government instructing citizens about unhealthy behavior was a slippery slope.

Sen. John Astle, D-Anne Arundel, who proposed a killer amendment last week that was later stripped from the bill in a rare parliamentary procedure, invoked George Orwell as he voiced his opposition to the bill. Opponents, however, said such warnings were overblown.

“This isn’t about big brother,” said Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery. “It’s about little brother in the back seat, in the car seat.”

The ban must still be approved by the House of Delegates.

Photo by Raul Lieberwerth