Potential Conn. vehicular smoking ban raises debate

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February 20, 2013, 5:00 pm
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(NECN: Brian Burnell, Hartford, Conn.) - It is already illegal in Connecticut to talk on your phone or text while driving. Now, smoking is in the crosshairs.

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would prohibit smoking in a vehicle carrying children under 7 years old.

Supporters say the dangers of second hand smoke to young children outweigh the rights of the driver. They point to studies that show children who spend an hour in a smoky car breathe in as much smoke as if they'd smoked 10 cigarettes. Justin Kvadas, 16, has been calling for this since he was in fifth grade.

"If you can't drink or eat or talk on a cell phone while driving," he questioned, "how come you can still smoke and drive?"

Kvadas believes that, unlike those other bans, this one is about the health of the youngest passengers.

"I think it will help kids be healthier. All the issues with asthma and all that," said Kvadas. "I think it will keep them healthier, keep them safer."

This is apparently already working in Maine. When officers in that state issued the warning to drivers who were smoking with kids in the car, they have found the drivers stopped doing it.

That a warning now did not turn into a violation down the road tells one of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Henry Genga of East

Hartford, that this is about education as much as anything. Once people are told how bad the second hand smoke is for kids, they stop smoking, more or less, voluntarily.

"People generally believe just cracking your windows relieves the pollutants and dangerous levels of toxins in an automobile and that's not true."

But there is also the 'big brother' aspect of this. The idea that government is sticking its nose in places it doesn't

belong, like inside people's cars. Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton is one. She doesn’t argue the dangers of second hand smoke.

"Its health hazards are so well documented. Heart disease is 355 times greater if you smoke. All of these things. Yet, is government going too far in going into people's homes or into people's cars?"

If this does become law, police won't be looking for smokers. They would only enforce it after stopping a driver for another violation.

Tags: hartford, connecticut, smoking, ban, cigarette, Brian Burell, Justin Kvadas, Toni Boucher
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