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Adults Smoking in Cars is Bad for Kids

We all know that smoking is bad for your health, but scientists are still discovering new ways in which second-hand smoke can be dangerous, particularly for children riding in cars with smoking adults. Although many smokers will roll down their windows when they smoke and drive, a new study published by Tobacco Control found that even with windows down, smoking in the car can produce dangerous levels of particle air pollution.

The study, published on October 15, focused specifically on the affects of secondhand smoke in cars on children. The results may be surprising to many, as it is a common misconception that the air flow that occurs while driving with the windows down, is enough to completely clear the car of the harmful chemicals from a cigarette. However, the researchers found that the smoke from tobacco was even more powerful than we thought.

Researchers in the U.K measured levels of fine particulate matter from the rear passenger seat in the cars of 14 smokers and 3 non-smokers. The tests lasted from 5 to 70 minutes, with an average drive of 27 minutes. Of the 83 trips that researchers took with the drivers, 34 did not involve smoke.

After testing, they found that levels of particulate matter averaged 7.4 micrograms per cubic meter of air during smoke-free drives, but soared to be around 11 times as high during drives when smoking occurred. The particulate levels were strongly associated with the number of cigarettes smoked; the average levels were found to be at 385 mcg/m3, while the highest recorded level was 880 mcg/m3.

Researchers discovered that even though smokers usually opened car windows to provide ventilation when smoking occurred, the particulate matter levels were still higher than the limit considered to be safe by the World Health Organization (25 mcg/m3).

With this information, it is plain to see that smoking in the car when children are present, is quite dangerous for their health, as well as for the health of any passenger in the car. Whether you are driving with children, adult friends, family, or even the family pet, when you smoke in the car, you expose yourself and your loved ones to unsafe conditions. Cigarette smoke impacts more than just the smoker; it takes its toll on anyone who is breathing it in. Though many try to limit the danger by providing ventilation and rolling down windows or running the air conditioner, these measures are not enough to keep the air quality in the car at a safe level.

Research like this is important for smokers and non-smokers alike. For those who do not smoke cigarettes, studies like this can help them to recognize when their health is being put at risk, so that they may know to ask their friends and family to refrain from smoking during car rides. It is especially important that smokers keep from lighting up when children are present in the car, as serious children's health problems have been linked to second hand smoke. Exposing kids to second hand smoke puts them at risk for serious health issues, including sudden infant death, middle ear disease, and asthma.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (U.S.A), there are more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco and cigarette smoke, hundreds of which are toxic and 70 which are known to cause cancer. These dangerous chemicals are not only being inhaled by the smoker, but are being breathed in by anyone surrounding them.

While some may think that the issue of secondhand smoke, particularly in the car, is a small issue, secondhand smoke affects millions of people. From 2007 to 2008 over 88 million non-smokers in the United States were exposed to secondhand smoke, and therefore, also exposed to the dangerous toxins cigarette smoke contains. One of the largest populations affected by secondhand smoke is children, with 53.6% of young children, aged 3 to 11, exposed to secondhand smoke during those years alone.

Hopefully, as awareness of this new research spreads, many will make the choice to stop smoking in the car when others are present, and especially when children are riding along. Although cigarettes and tobacco are very addictive, knowing the harm that secondhand smoke can do to loved ones will hopefully help smokers to refrain from smoking until they are alone. Even better, it is hoped that research, like this, may give smokers the push they need to quit smoking and stop putting themselves and the ones they love at risk.

Quit smoking today, and stop putting yourself and others in harm's way. Visit the CDC's How to Quit Smoking website, for a list of helpful resources.


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