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New research shows, when you smoke, they smoke

30 March 2011

New research by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, presented at their conference in Cardiff, shows that children in cars are still exposed to harmful levels of pollution from smoke, even after a cigarette has been put out. It provides further evidence, says the British Lung Foundation (BLF), for why we need to take action to stop smoking in cars carrying kids.

The study reveals that the amount of time it takes for dangerous particles in cigarette smoke to fall back to safe levels is longer than expected. And excessive exposure could put children at risk of breathing problems and lung disorders later in life including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.

The BLF is warning parents that they are wrong to believe that opening car windows will drain out the cigarette smoke therefore making it less dangerous. The study showed that levels of ‘particulate matter’ stayed at levels hazardous to health for around an hour in a normal-sized car and it took up to two hours for them to fall back completely.

Miranda Watson, Director of Communications at the British Lung Foundation said:

“The CIEH report provides yet further evidence of the damage smoking in cars causes to children’s health. When adults smoke in the car, children smoke which is why smoking in cars with kids has already been banned in other parts of the world – including US states such as California, and much of Australia and Canada.

“British Lung Foundation research shows that over half of children are exposed to cigarette smoke whilst confined in the car and almost 9 out of 10 children want action from the Government. The Government cannot afford to ignore their plea for protection.”

Particulate matter refers to a variety of particles found in the air such as dirt, dust and smoke. It had been thought that larger particles, over 10 micrometres in diameter, were the only threat to health, causing breathing problems. But now experts say that smaller particles of just 2.5 micrometres could also be risky.

In March, the BLF delivered a petition with over 16,000 signatures of support to put a stop to smoking in cars carrying children. Add your voice to the campaign by signing the petition.


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Notes to Editors

  • The research is being presented on Thursday 31 March at the Wales conference of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
  • The research attached a measuring device to child car seats in the back of four different-sized cars.
  • Tests showed that in an average size car levels of potentially hazardous “particulate matter” remained high for more than an hour after a cigarette has been smoked.
  • The findings varied depending on the size of the car, whether windows were opened, the type of cigarettes smoked and whether or not the car was stationary.