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The Asthma Section

Should We Ban Smoking in Cars with Children?

The town of Wolfville, Nova Scotia grabbed headlines last fall when it banned smoking in cars that are carrying children under the age of 18. Today, many Canadians are talking about this burning issue, and The Lung Association has launched a campaign to lobby for smoke-free family cars in every province and territory. To date, private member bills and motions have been introduced in the legislatures of the Yukon, British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

Why should Canadians care about banning smoking in cars carrying children? Because second-hand smoke is more concentrated in a confined space. Within a vehicle, poisons found in smoke can reach high levels in a short amount of time.

A 2006 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that breathing in smoke from a single cigarette for only five minutes in a car exposes a person to the same amount of smoke as spending the equivalent time in a smoky bar. Babies and children are most vulnerable because they breathe more rapidly and take in more harmful chemicals for their size than adults do. Second-hand smoke affects their developing respiratory, immune and nervous systems.

In the United States, the Surgeon General recently released a report on the profound impact of second-hand smoke on children, revealing that kids exposed to second-hand smoke have an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia, middle ear infections, more severe asthma, respiratory symptoms and slowed growth of the lungs. The report concludes that there simply is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke; even brief exposures can prove harmful.

There is growing evidence as well that kids who are exposed to second-hand smoke in the womb and as infants have more behavioural problems, shorter attention spans, and lower marks than peers who aren’t exposed to smoke.

Since babies and children are powerless to protect themselves from this risk, The Canadian Lung Association is asking Canadians to take a stand with the “Clean Air for Kids” lobby. “This campaign is about protecting Canada’s children from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke,” said Nora Sobolov, president of The Lung Association. “Working together with Canadians, we are confident that action can be taken to ensure kids are not subjected to smoking in cars.”

What can you do? If you want to send a message directly to your provincial or territorial representative, visit The Lung Association.

Discussion: Smoking outside “still harms kids”
The dangers of third-hand smoke
15 ways to clean up your home’s air

First published in Breathing Space, a supplement of Allergic Living magazine.

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