Riding in a car with a smoker can pose a significant health risk to nonsmokers, especially young children and adolescents. In the study, “Secondhand Smoke Exposure in Cars Among Middle and High School Students – United States, 2000-2009,” in the March 2012 Pediatrics (published online Feb. 6), data on youth exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) was reviewed from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, a national survey of U.S. students in grades 6 through 12. The results indicate that over the last decade, SHS exposure decreased among both nonsmoking and smoking middle and high school students.
However, in 2009, 22.8 percent of non-smoking students and 75.3 percent of smoking students still reported SHS exposure in a car within the past week. Among youth, SHS exposure can lead to acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, delayed lung growth, and more severe asthma. The authors suggest that implementing voluntary smoke-free policies, or expanding existing comprehensive smoke-free policies that prohibit smoking in worksites and public areas, could reduce SHS exposure in motor vehicles among youth.
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