From: Associated Press
Published October 27, 2006 12:00 AM

New Zealand Smoking in Cars Study Shows It Should Be Banned to Protect Children

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand medical researchers said Friday that laws are needed to ban smoking in vehicles where children are passengers, findign evidence that second-hand smoke causes respiratory illnesses in children.

In research findings published Friday, a Wellington School of Medicine study found being in a car with a smoker was equivalent to sitting in a smoky bar, even with the smoker's car window fully wound down.

With all the car windows closed, smoke pollution was at least twice as bad as sitting in the smokiest bar, the researchers said.

Smoking in bars, restaurants and on public transport was banned in New Zealand in December, 2004.

The study measured the amount of particulate released in a car when the front seat passenger smoked a cigarette.

Particulate, tiny airborne particles that can enter the lungs, have been associated with negative health effects in air pollution studies.

Public health lecturer Richard Edwards said on a very smoggy day in a New Zealand city, particulate levels were between 35-40 micrograms per cubic meter (yard).

When someone was smoking in a car with their window down the particulate level was 199 micrograms per cubic meter (yard).

With all the windows up, the level rocketed to 2,926 micrograms per cubic meter (yard).

Dr. Edwards said the School of Medicine was calling on the government to consider a law aimed at stopping smoking in vehicles carrying children.

The practice was already banned in some parts of the United States, and was being considered in the Australian state of New South Wales, he said.

"There's lots of evidence that second-hand smoke causes respiratory illnesses in children, so given that the levels are high, then you'd expect (parents) are exposing their children to health risks," he said.

Lobby group Action on Smoking and Health said it hoped parents would respond to the stop smoking in cars message from the survey.

"I think that parents, when they realize they just can't roll down the (vehicle) window to protect their children from second hand smoke ... will stop smoking in their cars," said ASH director Becky Freeman.

There had been a "huge increase in smoke-free homes" when a campaign was launched to take smoke outside, "and hopefully the same thing will happen here," she said.

If parents did not get the message to protect children from smoke, ASH would support the researchers' call for a law to ban smoking when kids are in cars, Freeman added.

Source: Associated Press

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