Smoking in a vehicle can create toxic levels of circulating smoke.
While there are fewer kids and teens are getting exposed to secondhand smoke while riding in the car, the rates of exposure are still high enough to warrant concern, according to a new government study.
The authors recommend that more parts of the country ban smoking in cars carrying kids—laws that are on the books in four states.
In a survey of middle and high school students, close to one-third said they’d driven in a car with someone who was smoking in the past week.
Researchers said parents and other drivers may not realize that even when the windows are down, smoking in a vehicle can create toxic levels of circulating smoke.
“The concentrations just get very high—they get as high as in a very, very smoky bar,” said Dr. Ana Navas-Acien, who has studied secondhand smoke in cars at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
“It’s important for children, definitely, but it’s a problem for everybody,” Navas-Acien, who wasn’t involved in the new study, told Reuters Health.
Even for smokers’ own health, she added, “It’s really important for them to realize that they should not smoke in such a small, confined space.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that four states— Arkansas, California, Louisiana and Maine—have bans on smoking in cars carrying kids younger than 13 to 18, depending on the law. Puerto Rico also bars the practice.
Navas-Acien agreed with the authors that extending those laws to more of the country is necessary to protect kids from health problems linked to secondhand smoke, such as asthma and respiratory and ear infections.