The Associate Minister of Health (Hon Tariana Turia) has signalled interest in the New Zealand Government developing legislation to protect child health by limiting smoking in cars with children. Such a move would be part of an international trend that has seen such laws covering most Australian states, Canadian Provinces and some US States (including California). It would also be consistent with other actions to limit hazards and improve safety within cars: compulsory seat belts, compulsory car seats for infants, and bans on mobile phone use while driving (as recently enacted by the last National Party-led Government in New Zealand).
Smokefree cars would help reduce the burden of child illness, given the evidence for the role of secondhand smoke (SHS) in “sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, altered respiratory function, infection, cardiovascular effects, behaviour problems, sleep difficulties, increased cancer risk, and a higher likelihood of smoking initiation”. Reducing these impacts could in turn reduce both private and tax-payer funded health system costs (given international evidence on SHS impacts on health costs). It is expected that the move would help reduce smoking uptake in children by providing positive smokefree modelling (given New Zealand evidence8 and international evidence).
To provide background and context to further policy-maker discussions on this topic, we tabulate the New Zealand literature relevant to smokefree car policies that we could identify on Medline and on health organisation websites in New Zealand.
Citation: Wilson, N., Thomson, G., Edwards, R., & Gifford, H. (2012. Smokefree cars to protect children and denormalise smoking: a mini-review of New Zealand literature [Letter]. New Zealand Medical Journal, 125(1355), http://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal/125-1355/5208/.