Bill proposes smoking ban in cars transporting children

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Nearly four years after state lawmakers voted to ban smoking in Connecticut bars and restaurants, an East Hartford legislator wants to stop people from lighting up in their cars.

State Rep. Henry Genga, D-East Hartford, has submitted a bill that would prohibit people from smoking in cars when children are inside. Genga said he got the idea from a 9-year-old constituent who e-mailed him last year.

“It’s coming from the young people and you’ve got to listen to the public,” he said. “And this is coming from the public.”

Motor vehicle smoking bans took effect in Arkansas and Louisiana over the summer.

According to Connecticut’s Office of Legislative Research, the Arkansas law applies to drivers riding with children who are required to use child restraint systems because they are under 6 years old or weigh less than 60 pounds. Violators are subject to $25 fines.

The Louisiana law applies to children under 13 and imposes a fine up to $150 or 24 hours of community service for a first offense.

Genga said he wants Connecticut’s law to mirror Louisiana’s. Under his proposal, a police officer would be able to stop a vehicle if he or she sees someone smoking with a youngster inside.

David Sutton, a spokesman for Philip Morris USA, the nation’s largest cigarette maker, said the company discourages adults from smoking around young people but believes the owner of a private residence or car should determine whether smoking is allowed inside.

Gary Nolan, spokesman for The Smoker’s Club Inc., a national pro-smoker group, said fears about secondhand smoke are based on what he called “junk science” and children are already exposed to many of the chemicals in cigarettes.

Nolan, a smoker, said he wishes everyone would quit but thinks bills such as Genga’s infringe on smokers’ constitutional rights.

“I think smoking in front of your children is a very bad influence,” he said. “I would suggest that you not do it. But I would never suggest writing a law.”

Genga’s bill was filed Friday and awaits action by the legislature’s Select Committee on Children, as well as other committees.

In 2003, the Connecticut legislature banned smoking in bars and restaurants, but not in private clubs or the state’s two tribal casinos.

The move prompted outrage from smokers and bar owners, who complained that the ban infringed on their rights and hurt their businesses. But efforts to repeal or revamp the law have fizzled.

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