We’ve previously covered to some extent what smoking cigarettes in cars does to the environment of the vehicle, but how exactly does it affect children who are unwittingly along for the ride?
A new study in Pediatrics attempted to determine the prevalence and factors associated with strictly enforced smoke-free car policies among smoking parents.
It has been known that tobacco smoke exposure is associated with increased morbidity in children and that exposure in cars can be particularly intense. The new study shows that very few parents observe a smoke-free car policy and that the need for improved pediatric interventions to protect children from tobacco smoke toxins is overdue.
The study’s authors conducted exit interviews with smoking parents whose children were seen in 10 control pediatric practices. Smoking parents were asked about their smoking behaviors in their vehicles and whether or not they received smoke-free car advice at the visit.
Out of 981 smoking parents, 83 percent owned a car. Of these, 795 parents answered questions about their car smoking policy. Of these, 29 percent reported a smoke-free car policy. Of the 562 parents without a smoke-free car policy, 48 percent reported that they smoke in the car with children present. Overall, roughly 12 percent of parents were advised to observe a smoke-free car.
The study concluded that most smoking parents expose their children to tobacco smoke in the vehicle and that improved pediatric interventions are still needed. The authors urge:
“Strict 100% smoke-free car policies would help reduce TSE of children and aid in protecting them from its harmful health effects. Pediatricians can help protect children from TSE in cars by prioritizing addressing tobacco use with parents and advising them to have strict smoke-free car policies.
“US pediatricians can also advocate for their patients by presenting the case to lawmakers and/or lobbyists for introducing legislation that protects children from TSE in cars as has been done in some states and in the United Kingdom.”
In short, don’t smoke in your car with children present.