When I was a kid, my parents smoked like chimneys, especially when we went for a drive. I didn't like it, but what was I to do? This was before we knew about the dangers of smoking, not just for the smoker, but for the people around them.

Smoking, after all, is a bad habit no matter how you look at it, and can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. With the increased understanding of the dangers of second hand smoke, it is also well known that smoking is bad for the people around smokers, and can contribute to a number of the same health problems. Some experts believe that it can also affect a person's hearing as well as their mental health.

Smoking's Impact on Children

This is especially true for children, whose developing bodies are more susceptible to the adverse health consequences of toxins. Furthermore, as children they are often unable to remove themselves from the source of smoke, and because they are young, the cells in their body have more time to manifest the consequences of their exposure to carcinogens.

With this in mind, there is a greater awareness about smoking around young children, with more thought to providing adequate ventilation so that smoke will have less of an impact on their health. This is especially true within the close confines of a car.

Open Windows Not Enough?

Now, however, researchers are beginning to realize that these considerations might not be enough, and their findings have inspired some groups to begin campaigns designed to encourage motorists to make their cars completely smoke-free.

The reason for this lies in the fact that children are exposed to dangerous levels of poisonous particles even with open windows and ventilation. According to the study, it is a common misconception that opening a window is enough to protect a child when you smoke and drive, and still results in them being exposed to high levels of toxic compounds.

Researchers arrived at their findings by installing the most up-to-date smoke monitoring equipment in a child-sized doll that was seated in the back of a car. The measured levels of tobacco poison were so high as to be compared to what is found in a busy smoke-filled pub.

No Smoking Zone

The message from the data is clear: Do not smoke in your car when any children are present, and do not let your children ride in cars with people who smoke while they drive.

In ideal world, smokers would simply quit altogether, but if this is not an option, here are some tips to consider to help protect your children, bearing in mind that there is no safe level of smoke exposure.

  • Smoke outside of confined spaces. In most public places, this is now the law, but does not apply to places like your home or car.
  • Make your car smoke free at all times. Instead of smoking during your drive, have one before or after you get behind the wheel.
  • Empty out your car's ashtrays and keep them clean at all times.
  • Chew nicotine gum while driving.
  • During long drives, take breaks to step out and have a smoke.
  • Just quit. I know, it's easier said than done, but quitting smoking will go a long way to protecting your health and the health of people around you.

If you smoke and want to quit, speak with your doctor, and visit the website for SmokeFree.gov.

Related Reading: