Source: ASPIRE 2025, 7 July 2017
New evidence shows one in five children continue to be exposed
to smoking in cars, and that exposure even increased in 2015.
These findings by ASPIRE2025 researchers contradict Government
claims that current initiatives are sufficient to protect children
from the hazards of exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS).
The research, led by the University of Otago, Wellington, and
published in the New Zealand Medical Journal this week, analysed
recent trends in children's SHS exposure in cars using updated
(2013-2015) data from ASH surveys of Year 10 students.
The surveys were conducted between 2006 and 2015, and included
between 19,000 and 29,500 students who were asked whether, in the
past week, others had smoked around them in a car or van.
Professor Richard Edwards, from the University of Otago,
Wellington and co-director of the ASPIRE2025 research
collaboration, says his team's analysis shows that exposure of
children to smoking in cars is unacceptably high and actually
increased in 2015 with close to one third of Māori students and
over a quarter of Pacific students reporting being in a car with
someone smoking in the past week.
"If the levels of exposure reported in 2015 in the survey applied
to all Year 10 students, we estimate that almost 12,000 14-15
year-olds were exposed to smoking in cars each week in that year,"
Professor Edwards says.
In October 2015, a petition presented to Parliament by Patu
Puauahi Tai Tokerau/Smokefree Northland prompted a Health Select
Committee investigation and subsequent recommendation that the
Government introduce legislation or other measures to ban smoking
in cars carrying children under the age of 18 years. The Government
issued a response to the Health Select Committee in March 2017.
This acknowledged the serious health risks of SHS, and the
importance of protecting children from these harms, but rejected
the recommendation to introduce legislation to ban smoking in cars
carrying children on the grounds that "present initiatives are
sufficient to deter smoking in cars carrying children under the age
of 18 years".
However, the authors of the NZMJ study question the extent of
'current initiatives' to reduce smoking in cars, noting that the
only sustained national non-legislative intervention was a mass
media campaign that ran from 2006-2008. While there has been
intermittent implementation of the previous campaign in 2012 and
2013, and occasional local or regional initiatives supported by
community partnership grants, no sustained national interventions
on smokefree cars have taken place since 2008.
Professor Edwards comments "Levels of second-hand smoke in cars
are very high, making SHS exposure in cars a particularly severe
health hazard for children. Many countries, including the UK and
states and provinces in Australia, Canada and America, have
introduced legislation to prohibit smoking in cars where children
are present. So, New Zealand is falling well short of international
best practice on protecting children from this completely avoidable
The health effects of second-hand smoke (SHS) for children
include increased risk of respiratory tract infections,
exacerbations of asthma and 'glue ear'.
The researchers argue that the evidence from this new study
suggests exposure to SHS through smoking in cars continues to be a
significant health hazard for many thousands of school students and
children in New Zealand, particularly for Māori and Pacific
children. They encourage the Government to reconsider its decision
and introduce smokefree cars legislation in order to protect
children from the adverse health effects of SHS exposure and help
reduce inequalities in health among children.
View the article in
New Zealand Medical Journal (note password access required
until January 2018).
Edwards, R., Sim, D., Ball, J., Hoek, J., Beaglehole, R., Waa,
A. (2017) Surveys show exposure to smoking in cars among Year 10
children is not decreasing: time for the Government to
act. New Zealand Medical