Lung Association wants drivers to butt out in cars with kids
People who smoke in cars carrying children could be slapped with a fine.
That’s what could happen if the provincial government legislates a ban ensuring people butt out when transporting young passengers in vehicles.
The call for the change is coming from the Newfoundland and Labrador Lung Association who have joined forces with the province’s Medical Association (NLMA), Association of Registered Nurses (ARNNL), Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) and the Alliance for the Control of Tobacco (ACT). The group is lobbying the provincial government to pass the ban in the House of Assembly.
“It is simply not acceptable that some children are forced to ride in cars when people are smoking,” said Niki Legge, director of the Smokers Help Line for the Newfoundland and Labrador Lung Association.
“This is a serious public health issue that needs to be addressed.”
The quest to ban smoking in cars carrying children is an extension of a Stop Smoking in Cars - Our Kids Deserve it campaign launched by the Lung Association in January 2008.
“The ban has been at least a year in the making,” said Legge. “In that time we’ve drummed up a lot of community support for this concern. People from all across the province sent letters to their MHAs in support of it and both the RNC and Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador are on board as well.”
NLMA president Doctor Elizabeth Callahan, says exposing children to tobacco smoke is a serious health risk.
“The government has already adopted significant legislative measures to protect the health and safety of children, including measures to protect them from environmental smoke,” said Callahan.
“Given what we know about the negative impacts of tobacco smoke on children and the support that a ban on smoking has right across the country, we urge government to move on this as quickly as possible.”
Numbers to prove it
The Canadian Cancer Society feels the vast majority of Canadians - and even a solid majority of Canadians who smoke - support a ban on smoking in cars carrying kids and they have the numbers to prove it.
A poll, commissioned by the Canadian Cancer Society, conducted Dec. 12,2008 to Jan. 3,2009 by Environics, suggested 82 per cent of Canadians agreed that smoking should be prohibited in cars transporting children and teenagers under the age of 18.
Among smokers who responded to the telephone survey, 69 per cent supported the idea.
A total of 2,032 Canadians took part in the poll, which is considered accurate to within plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
On April 1, 2008 Nova Scotia became the first province to legislate a ban on smoking in cars carrying children, after the town of Wolfville, N.S., passed a municipal bylaw banning the practice a few months earlier. British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, the Yukon and Prince Edward Island have since followed suite.
“We would like to see this province join with the rest of Canada to implement this kind of ban as well,” said Legge. “Children and young people are very susceptible to the effects of second-hand smoke, especially in an enclosed space such as a car.”
While the legislation will probably result in some people being ticketed, Legge says punishing people is not the intention.
“This is about protecting the health of the province’s children, educating the public and bringing awareness to the health risks associated with second-hand smoke,” said Legge. “In fact the Lung Association hopes no one ever receives a ticket because that will mean no one was caught smoking in a car carrying kids.”
According to a 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey 19 per cent of non-smokers 12 to 17 years old were regularly exposed to second-hand smoke in private vehicles.
Research provided by the Canadian Cancer Society says tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 dangerous chemicals and carcinogens and second-hand smoke in vehicles is especially potent when it is concentrated in a confined space.
The same research stated chil- dren exposed to second-hand smoke are at a higher risk for many health problems. Children and babies who are exposed to second hand smoke on a regular basis are at higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, and ear infections. They are also more likely to develop cancer and heart disease as adults. Second-hand smoke can make symptoms worse for kids who have asthma or a respiratory infection. Additionally, there is growing evidence that kids who are exposed to second-hand smoke before and after birth have more behaviour problems, shorter attention spans, and lower marks at school than their peers who aren’t exposed to smoke.
Legge believes the ban doesn’t infringe on the rights of parents by forcing them to protect their children.
“This is a community approach to ensure there are healthy policies in place for children,” said Legge. “ It’s for their health and well-being and when you think about it there’s already lots of vehicle legislation in place, such as wearing a seatbelt, talking on a cell phone or drinking and driving...... this ban is just a continuation of the many safe policies already in place.”
Roland Butler, Port de Grave MHA says he hopes the issue is brought before the House of Assembly this coming fall.
“I’ll support it one hundred per cent,” he said. “I am in total agreement with it. Right now we have regulations preventing smoking in many open areas so it only makes sense that we move to prevent it from happening in confined spaces such as vehicles where children may be present. We all know the dangers and health concerns around inhaling second-hand smoke. This regulation is already in effect in many provinces across Canada and it’s about time our province came onboard as well.”
While the ban may be difficult to monitor, Butler believes it will result in a decrease in smoking in vehicles when young passengers are present.
“The research shows once regulations are in place and an issue or concern is monitored the number of people participating or causing the concerns decreases,” said Butler. “Yes it may be a bit difficult to monitor, especially at first, but that’s no reason not to go ahead with it. The same was said of cell phone use while driving and seat belt regulations in the beginning, but once the reg- ulations were in place and people were pulled over and ticketed, we all got the message pretty quick and there was a decline in the number of people who didn’t wear their seatbelts or talk on the phone while driving.The same will happen in this situation.”