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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Your Health

New Study Shows Fewer Parents Smoking in the Car

A study published in Pediatrics shows fewer parents smoking with their kids in the car, but health experts are still concerned

Less people are smoking and driving, according to a study released Monday.

The online Journal of Pediatrics reports the number of middle and high school aged children exposed to secondhand smoke in cars decreased from 48 percent to 30 percent between 2000 and 2009. Still, approximately one in five children reported having ridden in a car with an adult who was smoking in 2009.

Smoking in a car is particularly dangerous because it is a closed space with little ventilation, according to the journal.

Though the decrease in parents smoking with their kids in the car is promising for childrens' health, experts are still concerned. Children are especially vulnerable to the dangers of secondhand smoke, which include asthma, respiratory infections, because their immune systems are in the process of development.

Secondhand smoke in cars is a worldwide concern. Only four U.S. states and Puerto Rico have laws preventing adults from smoking in cars with children as passengers, while Bahrain and South Africa have outlawed it altogether.

Wales is in the process of unveiling the Fresh Start Wales campaign, which aims to stop parents from smoking with their children in the car. If it is ineffective, a law preventing smoking in the car with children will likely be considered.

Changes in attitudes toward smoking in the last ten years have been credited to new laws that prevent smoking in public places such as bars and restaurants.

"I think more and more people are respecting the fact that we deserve a smoke-free environment," said Gail Liacko, a parent of a current USC student.

There has also been a decrease in the number of young people who take up smoking over the past ten years. Early education about the dangers of smoking plays a part, but parents are divided on whether or not smoking in the car encourages children to take up the habit.

Mitra Shakerin-Zahedi, another parent, believes that children of parents who smoke in the car are encouraged "to pick up the bad habit of smoking as well." 

But Liacko, who grew up with a father who smoked in the car, says that "I think it makes [children] want to smoke less".

Time will tell whether the next ten years bring major changes in societal attitudes and laws about smoking.

 “Anything anybody could do to make people smoke less is a good thing for me,” Liacko said.

RELATED:

USG Considers Campus Smoking Ban

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