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Parents Who Smoke Often Expose Children to Tobacco Smoke in Their Cars

11/12/2012 For Release: November 12, 2012

The Surgeon General states that there is no safe level of tobacco smoke exposure. Tobacco smoke can contribute to an increased risk of respiratory infections, cancer and even death in children. Parents who smoke can help protect their children by adopting and following a strict smoke-free car policy. In the study, “Parents Smoking in Their Cars With Children Present,” in the December 2012 issue of Pediatrics (published online Nov. 12), researchers interviewed 795 parents about their car-smoking policy and behavior, and if they expose their children to tobacco smoke in their cars. Seventy-three percent of the parents admitted that someone had smoked in their car in the past 3 months. Of the 562 parents who did not have a smoke-free car policy, 48 percent smoked in the car when their children were present. Most parents adopted a “strictly enforced” smoke-free home policy, but only 24 percent of parents had a strictly enforced smoke-free car policy. Few parents who smoked (12%) were advised by a pediatric health care provider to have a smoke-free car. This is the first known study to examine the rates at which pediatricians address smoking in cars, and due to the low number of parents counseled on this issue, study authors conclude that pediatricians should address tobacco use with parents and encourage them to have strict smoke-free home and car policies to help reduce tobacco smoke exposure of children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit