Don’t smoke in vehicles carrying kids: health unit

The Northwestern Health Unit, along with health units across Ontario, are urging adults who are driving with children to not smoke in their vehicles and to make their cars smoke-free.
“Children can’t choose who they travel with or how safe the ride will be,” said Jennifer McKibbon, tobacco strategy manager with the Northwestern Health Unit.
“So we are asking adults travelling with kids to protect them by keeping their vehicles smoke-free.
“Young children are among the most vulnerable to the damaging health effects of second-hand smoke,” added McKibbon. “Infants and children are more severely affected by second-hand smoke than adults because they breathe faster and their lungs are smaller.”
There is international scientific consensus that exposure to tobacco smoke puts children at a greater risk of developing bronchitis, pneumonia, colds, ear infections, and asthma.
Infants, meanwhile, have an increased chance of dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Opening vehicle windows or smoking only when children aren’t in the vehicle does not reduce the health risks. The only way to protect children is to make vehicles completely smoke-free.
The Non-Smokers’ Rights Association recently published a position paper, citing evidence that smoking a single cigarette for only five minutes in a vehicle can result in concentrations of particles reaching levels similar to those measured in smoky bars.
A province-wide campaign, starting in December and running into January, encourages those who smoke to take it outside and away from children.
“We know that parents want to keep their children safe,” said McKibbon. “Those that continue to smoke around children may not know about the risks or they may not be able to quit smoking right now because of a heavy nicotine addiction.
“This campaign is to raise awareness of the health risks, and to let smokers know that keeping their vehicle smoke-free helps to protect children, as well as other passengers.”
McKibbon has the following suggestions to make your vehicle smoke-free:
•When travelling, pull over for a smoke break. Keep a jacket and an umbrella in the car to stay warm and dry while smoking outside; and
•If you leave children in the car while you take a smoke break, remember to turn off the car, take the keys, and stand outside where you have a clear view of them while you take your break.
It can seem inconvenient at first, but your efforts are important to protect your children and other non-smoking passengers.
For more information about protecting children and others from second-hand smoke and information to help you quit smoking, call the Northwestern Health Unit at 1-888-404-4231.