Second hearing held on proposed car smoking ban

By Evan Pajer - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Feb. 22, 2013
East Hartford police could soon be issuing warnings to drivers who smoke in their cars when children are present. Photo by Evan Pajer.
East Hartford police could soon be issuing warnings to drivers who smoke in their cars when children are present. Photo by Evan Pajer.

On Feb. 20, the Connecticut state legislature held a second public hearing on a bill that would ban smoking in cars with passengers under age 7. The bill, which was introduced by state Rep. Henry Genga (D-10) of East Hartford in January, aims to reduce the amount of secondhand smoke children are exposed to. Although the bill has not yet been scheduled for a vote, residents of East Hartford have formed strong opinions on it.

The bill introduced by Genga follows a similar bill Genga introduced in 2008. The current bill, known as HB 5380, would allow police to ticket drivers who are found smoking in their car and are found to be carrying a passenger under age 7 or weighing under 60 pounds. The bill states that police would only be able to ticket drivers if they have pulled them over for another reason, and provides a one-year grace period during which no tickets would be issued. After the first year, drivers who are caught violating the law would be issued one warning before being issued tickets for subsequent violations.

The bill currently has 31 sponsors in the state legislature. Among them are several legislators who represent East Hartford, including state Rep. Timothy Larson (D-11) and state Rep. Jason Rojas (D-9), who are listed as sponsors. Larson is listed as a sponsor on the bill, while Rojas is listed as a co-sponsor.

In East Hartford, residents have a divided opinion on the bill, with some saying it is an unnecessary intrusion into the lives of residents by the state government.

Simone Long, an East Hartford resident, opposes the bill but supports the idea behind it. "We don't need a law because it's a common-sense issue," she said. "You wouldn't smoke in a car with children because it's too closed in." Long said that while such a bill might protect children from some amount of secondhand smoke while in cars, children with parents who smoke would still be exposed to it in their homes. "You have people who smoke in their homes with young children. How are they going to control that?" Long said. "I would never smoke in a car with my child, but I don't want someone telling me that I can't do it."

Allison Bramande said she questions how effective the bill may be if it passes. "I'm not sure how successful it will be," she said, "because the police can't pull you over for it." Bramande said that although she did not know how effective the proposed law would be without giving police the ability to pull drivers over, she believed it to be a good starting point for reducing exposure to secondhand smoke. "It's a good start to get people to stop smoking around children, but I'm not sure how successful this approach will be," she said.

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