Task force to decide on law banning smoking in cars with kids

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– A task force is meeting today to discuss making it illegal to smoke in a car if there’s a child in it. This follows years of unsuccessful tries to change smoking laws, but the co-chair of the task force tells News8, there’s a real chance this time.

“I think we’ll have proposals and some ideas and sort of get a consensus on a ban,” said State Rep. Noreen Kokoruda (R – Madison).

We all know smoking with a kid in the car is bad, but should it be a crime? Lawmakers in Hartford have been trying to change the law for years, even holding hearings last year. Adults who smoke know the health risks and have chosen to ignore them. Children in a car have no choice but to inhale dangerous secondhand smoke when an adult is smoking nearby. That’s why some say we need a law.

Opponents asked how young would the kids have to be in order to be considered at risk, and how would police know they were young enough? Those opponents stopped previous attempts at passing the bill. That is why a task force was created to study the issue. Representative Kokoruda is the co-chair of the task force and she says they figured out a way for police to identify the kids.

“This time around, when we brought it up last year, we tied it to car seats,” Kokoruda explained. “So all of a sudden, because there’s an age issue. How do you identify a child 7 or 14 and under? They don’t have a license, how would you know? Car seats, children under 7, there’s a weight requirement.”

That gives police two things to look for – a cigarette and a car seat. Another concern is what should the punishment be?

“Different kinds of enforcement – a warning, a fine, a class or online course – we’re looking at everything,” Kokoruda said.

Everything, including doing more to educate people on the dangers of smoking. Representative Kokoruda says Connecticut is dead last among states in what it spends on anti-smoking education.

“I mean to be 50th in the nation, the Centers for Disease Control said that we should be spending $32 million a year,” said Kokoruda. “We’re spending $1.2 [million].”

Her task force meets at 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon to vote on its recommendations. Those will then be used in a bill that still has to get through the legislature, and to the governor’s desk, before any of this becomes law.

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