Study: Secondhand Smoke Still Harmful to Kids in Cars

Even though exposing children and teens to secondhand smoke in cars is illegal in four states, findings from a recent study show that secondhand smoke exposure is still a concern.

That’s why researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending that in addition to states that already ban smoking in vehicles with child passengers younger than 13 and up to 18-years of-age—Arkansas, California, Maine, and Louisiana—the anti-smoking laws should extend to the entire country.

Researchers point to the fact that parents may not realize that even when car windows are down, smoking in a vehicle creates toxic levels of circulating secondhand smoke and can lead to an array of health problems, like asthma, ear infections, and other respiratory infections.

“It’s really important for [smokers] to realize that they should not smoke in such a small, confined space,” says Dr. Ana Navas-Acien, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. “[Smoke] concentrations get very high…as high as in a very, very smoky bar.”

This new study was conducted nationwide, polling more than 20,000 kids from grades six to 12, every other year, from 2000 to 2009, on if they’d been exposed to smoking in a vehicle during the past week. It should be noted that 9 out of 10 of these students were not smokers.

Study findings reported that when the study began 48-percent of participants reported being exposed to smoke in a vehicle, but that number decreased to 30-percent by the end of the study.

Brian King of the CDC and his colleagues reason that these declines are due to the smoke-free laws, the public attitude that smoking around kids is wrong, and that more people butting out across the U.S.

However, Geoffrey Fong, a tobacco researcher from the University of Waterloo in Canada, says that even there’s a push to protect children in cars and a recognition that tobacco smoke in cars is very dangerous…”one in five (non-smoking kids) are still [being] exposed to this environment,” he says.

Source: Reuters Health

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