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A bill to ban smoking in vehicles occupied by youth age 15 or younger cleared the Utah House of Representatives on a 41-30 vote following fierce debate that pitted protection of children against personal freedom.

Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, is the sponsor of HB13, which would make smoking in vehicles with children a secondary infraction subject to a warning the first year after its passage and a $45 fine thereafter. Individuals could avoid the fine if they agreed to enroll in smoking cessation classes.

Rep. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, amended Arent's bill Monday to exclude convertibles with the tops down.

While expressing a strong disdain for tobacco use, Rep. Michael Kennedy, R-Alpine — a self-described 20-year victim of secondhand smoke — opposed HB13.

"I believe this proposal stretches the long arm of the law too far," Kennedy said, adding that he has dedicated his personal and professional life to urging people to quit smoking.

California passed a similar law in 2008, Kennedy said, asking, "Do we really want to imitate California?"

He added, "These [smokers] are often poor, depressed, anxious and economically challenged. Do we really want to persecute them more?"

However, Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, defended the line that lawmakers would draw with HB13.

"When parents act in ways that clearly indirectly kill or injure their children," King said, "it's wise for us as lawmakers and public policy makers to do what we can within reason to not allow that."

HB13 now moves on to the Senate for its consideration.

Twitter: @catmck

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