Christine Stuart photo

For the second year in a row, Rep. Henry Genga, D-East Hartford, is proposing a bill that would penalize adults who smoke in their cars with young children on board.

“A small child cannot be protected unless we protect them,” Genga said in his testimony to the Select Committee on Children Thursday. He said the language in the bill is exactly the same as last year, however, this year it has a better chance.

So what’s different?

He said the Judiciary Committee has promised to bring it up for a vote.

Genga was not alone in his optimism. Justin Kvadas, the sixth-grader from Sunset Ridge in East Hartford who came up with the idea for the bill last year, said based on the additional 429 signatures he gathered he thinks it has a “better chance this time.”

Kvadas came up with the idea for the bill when he was coming home from tae kwon do practice. He said he remembers looking out the window of the car and thinking, if you can’t talk on your cell phone while driving, how come you can still smoke?

Aside from being distracting, Genga said there’s no risk-free exposure from second hand smoke. He said there are an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 cases every year of infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, in infants and children under 18 months of age who breathe second hand smoke. He said 7,500 to 15,000 of these children require hospitalization.

The bill would apply to children ages 7 and under who are required to ride in a child restraint system. Genga said California, Louisiana, Arkansas, and the city of Bangor, Maine have all enacted similar laws or local ordinances.