The Maryland Senate passed a bill Wednesday morning that would make it illegal for a driver or passenger to smoke in a vehicle occupied by a child under 8 years old.
Senators voted 27-19 to send the bill to the House of Delegates after a lively debate over the rights of children to be protected from the dangers of second-hand smoke versus the rights of parents to be free from government intrusion in their vehicles.
The legislation would allow police officers to pull over drivers observed to be smoking in cars with a child in a booster seat. Children 8 and up were exempted because of the difficulty of determining the age of an older child. The maximum fine for a violation would be set at $50.
Proponents pointed to multiple scientific studies have shown that children in cars where others smoke are exposed to unsafe levels of toxins -- whether the windows of the vehicle are rolled up or not.
"This isn't about Big Brother. This is about little brother in the back seat," said Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery.
But opponents warned that the bill, sponsored by Sen. Jennie Forehand, D-Montgomery, would open the door to further government intervention in family life.
"Cheeseburgers are next," warned Senate Minority LeaderE. J. Pipkin, an Upper Shore Republican. "The cheeseburger police will be here and they're going to be saying that some child shouldn't be going toMcDonald'safter school."