Protecting Kids From Secondhand Smoke In Cars

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Secondhand Smoke

The Middlesex-London Health Unit and heath units from across southwestern Ontario are calling on Ontario's motorists to keep their vehicles smoke-free this winter. Launched early December, the province-wide "Take the Smoke Outside" campaign continues through January, encouraging drivers and their adult passengers to smoke outside of their cars, trucks and SUVs, well away from children.

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"Children are among the most vulnerable to the damaging health effects of second-hand smoke," says Linda Stobo, Southwest Tobacco Control Area Network Manager with the Middlesex-London Health Unit. "Exposing children to tobacco smoke in a confined space like a car is taking an unnecessary risk. The only way to truly protect them is to not smoke in your vehicle."

According to Health Canada, second-hand smoke kills more than 1,000 Canadians each year. The results of its latest Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey (CTUMS) show that 25 percent of Canadians are exposed to second-hand smoke in vehicles. In addition to this, research has shown that children who are exposed to tobacco smoke are at increased risk of developing bronchitis, pneumonia, colds, ear infections and asthma. In infants, exposure to second hand smoke also increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

It is worth noting that opening vehicle windows or smoking only when children are not present do not significantly reduce the risk of exposure to second hand-smoke. This is particularly due to the tendency of fabrics and upholstery to absorb and retain the toxins and chemicals found in tobacco smoke.

In a recent publication, the Non-Smokers' Rights Association cited evidence that smoking one cigarette for five minutes in a vehicle can result in concentrations of particulate reaching levels comparable to those measured in smoky bars. Infants and children are more severely affected by second-hand smoke than adults because of their smaller bodies and increased respiratory rates.

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