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

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– A task force in Connecticut is meeting to discuss making it illegal to smoke in a car if there's a child in it. This follows a couple unsuccessful tries to change smoking laws.

If you're of a certain age, you grew up with a parent always smoking in the car. Well, we know a lot more about the dangers of secondhand smoke to kids now, and we know smoking with a kid in the car is bad…but should it be a crime?

Lawmakers in Hartford have tried to make it illegal for a couple years, but they ran into problems. The solution was to create a task force on the issue with politicians, doctors and other experts. That task force meets later Wednesday to vote on its recommendations.

One of the concerns was how to enforce the ban – how do you know the child is young enough to be in danger?. We spoke to the co-chair of the task force and her idea is to make it illegal to smoke in a car with a child who is in a car seat.

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

"I think we'll have proposals and some ideas and sort of get a consensus on some sort of ban, on different kinds of enforcement – a warning, a fine, a class or online course – we're looking at everything," said State Rep. Noreen Kokoruda, (R) Madison

Including doing more to educate people on the dangers of smoking. She says that between the money the state gets from the cigarette tax, and the money from the big tobacco settlement years ago, the state makes about half a billion dollars from smokers, and yet Connecticut spends only a tiny fraction of that on programs to try to get people to stop smoking.

Representative Kokoruda says Connecticut is last among the 50 states in anti-smoking education spending. 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.