03/22/2012 06:03 pm ET

Maryland Smoking Law Would Prohibit Lighting Up With Kids In Car

In an effort to protect young children from secondhand smoke, state senators in Maryland have approved a bill that would prohibit drivers from smoking while transporting children under 8-years-old, The New York Times reports.

If the bill approved by the Maryland House of Delegates and becomes law, drivers who are caught violating it could face a fine of up to $50.

Not surprisingly, the bill has sparked a great deal controversy as questions surface regarding how the law would be enforced and whether it could lead to law enforcement officials infringing on people's privacy, the Washington Post reports.

Proponents of the bill argue it's a necessary protection for young children, who cannot refuse to ride in cars with drivers who smoke.

In fact, the original version of the bill proposed that the law apply to children 16 and under, but lawmakers changed it last week, ABC7 News reports.

But opponents argue that the bill gives authorities too much power, in part because it's difficult for officers to enforce the law without actively looking into drivers' windows.

"I get the 'protect your children' aspect of it, but the government needs to back up out of people's lives," Maryland resident Patty Herrell told ABC7 News.

In contrast, supporters argue that officers can identify children protected by the law by looking to see if they are any kids in car seats, which is a legal requirement for children 8-years-old and younger.

In any case, the proposed bill puts Maryland in a small group of states and local governments that have considered or passed smoking bans for drivers with child passengers.

According to The New York Times, Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine and Puerto Rico have all enacted bans, many of which are more restrictive than the one proposed in Maryland, as well as local governments in New York, New Jersey and Indiana.

For more on the story, watch the report from ABC7 News above.