Check the Emissions Inside Your Car
by Catherine Laird
When we were growing up many of us experienced riding in a car for hours with people smoking or living in a smoke-filled environment. And despite an increase in education and legislation restricting exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS), many children are still exposed to this extreme health hazard.
Today we are focused on child safety—car seats, non-toxic toys, immunization, increased health care, education and awareness. But what are we doing about the air our children breathe?
Exposure to SHS during pregnancy can affect the unborn baby’s development and is associated with premature births, miscarriages, low birth weights and other infant health problems. As well, SHS can affect breast milk, passing toxins on to the baby.
The provincial government has passed the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act 2008, which prohibits smoking in a vehicle when children are present. B.C. joins other progressive provinces in Canada by making it illegal to smoke or have lit tobacco in a car when there are children under the age of 16 years present. Regulations surrounding the implementation of this legislation will be announced soon.
Studies have shown that the smoke inside a car can be 27 times more concentrated than in a smoker’s home. Air conditioners in cars mean more people are driving with their windows closed, making the concentration of SHS even greater.
There is no safe exposure level to SHS and it is even worse for certain populations such as infants, children under 16, the elderly, people with an increased risk of heart disease or stroke, people with compromised immune systems, people with allergies, asthma or other lung diseases, pets, expectant moms and women thinking of becoming pregnant.
SHS is even dangerous to smokers. There are more than 4000 chemicals found in SHS. More than 50 of them are known Type A carcinogens, the most deadly kind, with no safe level of exposure.
SHS clings to our hair, clothing, skin, furniture, drapes, carpets, ceilings, walls, windows, toys, pet fur and the inside of vehicles. This residue gives off toxins even after the smoking has stopped.
And research shows that secondhand smoke can influence a child’s ability to reason and comprehend, and it can negatively impact behaviour and attention span.
As parents we try to set good examples and be good role models. We also hope that other mentors in our children’s lives, whether they are teachers, clergy, colleagues, friends, coaches, or other real or fictitious heroes and heroines, will also set good examples. Unfortunately, some influential adults in our children’s lives may be addicted to tobacco. And as much as they want to quit, they may find it difficult.
Laws and social pressure are making smoking less socially acceptable and more difficult, and some smokers may use this as a reason to quit. Worksafe B.C. and local bylaws have removed smoking in the workplace (including your personal residence or your car if you work from there) and now the Provincial Tobacco Control Act has eliminated smoking in most public places in B.C.
So, if you are a smoker, how can you support the children in your life to be tobacco free?
• Talk openly with your children about your smoking and how it negatively affects you. Explain how it is now illegal for anyone under 19 years to access tobacco and that tobacco is an addictive drug that can only be sold or given to adults.
• Make your home smoke-free 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Smoke-free environments reduce medical costs, time loss from work, cleaning, dusting and fire risks. Living in a smoke-free apartment or condo building will force you to keep your home tobacco-free. For more information, visit www.smokefreehousingbc.ca
• Make your car smoke-free—protect the health and safety of all children who may not be able or willing to speak for themselves.
• Choose non-smoking hotels—support those businesses that are taking a stand against SHS.
• Move it outdoors—go for a walk. Smoking outside will reduce exposure to SHS, for you and for others. This will also reduce the amount of toxins that are deposited on surfaces within an enclosed area.
• Be respectful of non-smokers who do not want to suffer the consequences of secondhand smoke.
• Think about quitting or reducing the amount you smoke by replacing some or all of your tobacco with clean nicotine. Nicotine Replacement Therapy is available at your pharmacy. Discuss options with your physician or pharmacist.
• Join Weedless Wednesday on January 21, and try one smoke-free day. This coincides with national non-smoking week January 18-24, when many people choose to quit smoking thanks to the extra promotion and support. For information, visit www.nnsw.ca
• To help with recovery from surgery, try quitting at least eight weeks before the scheduled procedure. For more information on cessation, visit www.quitnow.ca
In infants and children, exposure to SHS causes an increased incidence of allergies, colds, bronchitis, asthma, tonsillitis, sore throat, ear infections and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Depending on the length of time and the amount of exposure to SHS, non-smokers can develop the same long-term diseases as actual smokers, including heart and lung disease and cancers of the lung, bladder, blood, kidney, nasal passages, breast, cervix, thyroid and lymph glands.
The hard fact is, many people who have never used tobacco products themselves have died after developing illnesses from SHS.
Please make your environment smoke-free. If you smoke, think about quitting and if you know someone who smokes, think of ways that you can support them in quitting. Let’s all work together for a Smoke-Free B.C. For the Health of It.Catherine Laird, RRT, BHS, CHRP, is a Tobacco Reduction Coordinator, Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) 250-360-1450.