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Smokfree car laws have international support

Thursday 4 December 2008

Smokfree car laws have significant international support – new research

A newly published review of 15 research studies across the UK, North America, Australia and New Zealand, shows there is considerable support for tougher action on smoking in cars.

This is the first such review of this topic, and was conducted by Dr George Thomson and Dr Nick Wilson of the University of Otago, Wellington. They found that support is especially high for protecting children in cars, with 76% plus support for a ban against smoking in cars carrying children, in six surveys since 2005.

International research shows that the fine particulates inside a smoker’s car can be as high as in a smoky bar room, and much higher than WHO safety guidelines for air quality and health. Smokefree car laws have been passed in at least 11 large jurisdictions.

The review found laws banning smoking in cars containing children have been passed in: South Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales, Nova Scotia, Yukon and Ontario. Five US states or territories, including California, have also passed similar laws. In South Australia there was no significant burden on police resources, with only 125 prosecutions of drivers in the first year of the new law.

In other jurisdictions the focus has been on media campaigns, such as in New Zealand and Western Australia. But Dr Thomson says that “these campaigns need to be accompanied by smokefree car laws, if significant numbers of children are to be properly protected.”

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In recent years studies show significantly increased support for banning smoking in cars with children, in three Australian states, New Zealand, Canada, UK and California. In four of these studies (in California, New Zealand, Victoria and South Australia) there was 90% plus public support. In five surveys in 2005 or since (in California, New Zealand and Australia), this support from smokers was 77% or more.

The researchers conclude from this review that smokefree car laws, particularly for those containing children, would have majority public support in many jurisdictions.

“We suggest that there are strong ethical and public health arguments to implement such laws, along with supportive media campaigns,” says Dr Thomson.

The researchers say public education campaigns only protect some children from the health risks of second-hand smoke in cars, and the most socio-economically deprived children may be the least likely to be protected by social marketing campaigns.

This study has been published in the international journal Tobacco Control and was supported by funding from the Health Research Council of New Zealand.


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