Governments at all levels have in the past several years have begun cracking down on smokers and the places where they can freely light up and enjoy their dangerous habit. Because of this, many such smokers find themselves resorting to smoking in their cars. And it’s this new favorite locale for smoker’s that has health officials at the CDC worried about the additional dangers of second-hand-smoke that many children are now being exposed to. In a report, published in Pediatrics, government researchers describe how the increased levels of smoke exposure due to the confined interior of an automobile and the increased exposure time due to a large variety of car rides that have someone in the vehicle smoking, are harming our nation’s youth.
In a related piece, the American Academy of Pediatrics weighed in, noting that the CDC report shows that approximately 20% of all high school and middle school children ride in cars where someone is smoking. This number includes both family and friends.
The study data is based on multiple surveys of high school and middle school kids over the past several years. One of the questions asked kids how often they rode in a car where someone was smoking: most said once or twice, enough the researchers say, to cause breathing problems and allergy reactions. And of course long term exposure has been linked to lung cancer and other diseases such as hypertension and heart disease.
Second-hand-smoke exposure, they group says, has been found to be the worst source possible, second only to smoking directly. Thus, it’s worse, they say, then sitting in a smoke filled bar, or concert hall. They say not only is the smoke heavier and thicker, it’s more toxic, leading very quickly in some cases, to serious medical problems. They also cite several studies that show that second-hand-smoke exposure in teens and preteens is in general more harmful than second-hand-smoke exposure in adults due to the more fragile nature of still developing lungs.
Going back to 2009, the year where the team was able to collect the most data, the researchers found that 22% of teens and preteens had been exposed to second-hand-smoke in a car more than once. A number that they say is “troubling.” The researchers also note that riding in a car with someone who is smoking is quite often the only source of exposure to many teens. They suggest that all states follow the lead of the few that have enacted laws banning smoking in a car when a child is in it.