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Study: Smokers Light Up with Kids in the Car

Researchers have found a startling number of smokers are still lighting up behind the wheel with their children in the car.
Researchers have found a startling number of smokers are still lighting up behind the wheel with their children in the car.

The study, published online in the journal Pediatrics and also appearing in the December print edition, recruited smokers with children from outside pediatricians’ offices across eight states. Of the 981 parents participating in the study, 795 had a car and were willing to talk about any smoking-related rules they followed in the car. 73% of those participants said someone had smoked in their car in the past three months. Of the 562 parents interviewed who did not have a smoke-free policy in their cars, 48% said smoking took place with children present in the car.

When asked about smoking in the home, a majority of parents (57%) reported having a strict smoke-free policy. That’s compared to just 24% who said they strictly enforced a smoke-free car policy.

Most of us understand the dangers associated with secondhand smoke, and the US Surgeon General has clearly stated “there is no safe level of exposure to [secondhand smoke].” On top of that evidence, smoking in the car with a child is now illegal in Maryland, a ban researchers found support for even within the smoking community:

“A recent study conducted in four countries showed that the majority of smokers supported a ban on smoking in cars with children, with 60% of US smokers supporting the ban. Levels of support were higher in Australia (83%), the United Kingdom (75%), and Canada (74%).”

The authors of the Pediatrics study say pediatricians should talk to parents about smoke-free policies both in the home and in the car (just 12% of the parents surveyed reported their pediatrician had mentioned the importance of having a smoke-free car).

If you’re a smoker and you’re ready to quit, resources are available throughout the community. Frederick Memorial Hospital offers the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking program and the Frederick County Health Department has free cessation services available as well.

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