Bill to ban motorist smoking with child passengers aboard fails by one vote in Senate

A bill allowing police to cite adult motorists who are smoking in vehicles with children present fell one vote short of passage in the state Senate Wednesday. The Times Free Press reports the measure touched off a fierce debate about health versus personal freedom.

The vote was 16-8. Seventeen “yes” votes were required to pass the bill (SB1759, as amended – it was initially filed as a caption bill).

“It’s not intended to be punitive to the driver,” said Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, a physician and sponsor of the bill. “It’s intended to be an education on the hazards of smoking in a closed vehicle.”

Briggs said all he wanted to do was decrease the hazard to children.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, said the legislation “was an overreach into the lives of all Tennesseans” and motorists passing through the state, as well.

“This bill came to my committee as a Trojan horse,” he charged.

The bill would apply to adults in vehicles where there are children 14 years old and under inside the vehicle. Smoking with a child present would not be a “primary offense” that police could use to pull over a motorist. Instead, the decision to pull someone over would be based on an offense like speeding.

A first offense would be punishable only by the issuance of a warning citation. A second offense would be a Class D misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $20 and court costs could not exceed $10.

Third and subsequent offenses would be a Class C misdemeanor with fines of $50 and court costs limited to $10.

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