Lawmakers in New York have proposed legislation to ban smoking in cars when children under 14 are present. I applaud their desire to reduce the number of children exposed to secondhand smoke, but children don’t stop being children at 14. Their bodies are still growing and exposure to smoking and secondhand smoke is dangerous for everyone, no matter their age.
Secondhand smoke contains over 4,000 different chemicals and at least 43 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer. It contaminates the air and remains on clothes, hair, upholstery, carpeting, and in the air ducts of the vehicles. It is irritating to the eyes and nose. Exposure to secondhand smoke impairs lung function and increases the number of children’s colds and sore throats, as well as increases the likelihood of bronchitis and pneumonia. Inhaled smoke also irritates the eustachian tube. The swelling and obstruction of this tube interferes with pressure equalization in the middle ear and causes pain, fluid build-up and infection. Repeated ear infections and middle ear fluid are the most common causes of children’s hearing loss.
Safety is another reason to raise the proposed legislation to 18 yeas old. In most states, it is illegal to purchase tobacco products under 18, yet if you are near a high school when that final bell rings, you can see the kids lighting up in their cars as they pull out of school property. Most young drivers are easily distracted, and trying to look cool smoking while holding a cigarette out the window is not only a major driving distraction, it is dangerous. Lawmakers are also sending a mixed message to parents and kids – it is illegal to purchase cigarettes if you are under 18, but between 14 and 18 you can be around all the smoke you want, or don’t want.
Not smoking around your child, whether in a car or at home will reduce their incidences of smoking related illnesses. Quitting smoking altogether saves you money, makes you a positive role model for your child and makes everyone in the family healthier.