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Article | Trends in smoking in vehicles at a local community-level: Wainuiomata 2005-2013

This research shows the potential for community campaigns to reduce smoking in cars, but legislation is still critical to ensure children are protected.

A University of Otago Wellington study, led by ASPIRE2025 researcher George Thomson found that a local campaign may have halved smoking in vehicles with children in the Wellington suburb of Wainuiomata. However the lower smoking level achieved was still five times higher than that in another Wellington suburb – Karori.

The researchers observed more than 57,000 vehicles in Wainuiomata after a local campaign in 2013 to decrease the exposure of children to smoking in cars. The campaign included local sports role models, a webpage, radio advertising, signage at school drop-off zones, branding at community and school events, smokefree car information packs and a smokefree car story competition.



We aimed to describe long-term trends in smoking in vehicles in a deprived local community, and to consider the impact of a local community-initiated smokefree vehicle campaign.


An observational study in 2013 of smoking in vehicles repeated the methods of two previous studies (conducted in 2005 and 2011) in the same location (Wainuiomata) in New Zealand. The 2013 study followed a local smokefree vehicle campaign which began in early 2013.


Data were systematically collected on 57,672 vehicles in 2013. The point prevalence of smoking in vehicles decreased from 6.4% (95% CI: 5.9%–7.1%) in 2005 to 4.9% in 2011 (95% CI: 4.8%–5.1%) to 3.4% in 2013 (95% CI: 3.2%–3.5%). For vehicles with others (adults and children) there was a reduction from 1.4% in 2005 to 1.1% in 2011 and to 0.7% in 2013. In vehicles with children, the decline was from 0.22% in 2011 to 0.10% in 2013 (p<0.001 for all 2011-13 comparisons). Smoking in vehicles with other people present declined three times faster during 2011-13 than during 2005-2011.


In the context of relatively slow change in national trends for smoking prevalence and for smoking in cars, the results appear to be consistent with the local campaign having some beneficial impact on smoking behaviour in vehicles. However, achieving fully smokefree vehicles, and the consequent health equity dividend, will probably require national-level smokefree vehicle legislation.


Thomson, G., Oliver, J., Wilson, N. (2014) Trends in smoking in vehicles at a local community-level: Wainuiomata 2005-2013. New Zealand Medical Journal 127(1397).

The full article can be viewed in the New Zealand Medical Journal (password access required until January 2015). The study was partly funded by Regional Public Health, Lower Hutt.

The media release can be viewed here.

Media coverage relating to this study includes in the Dominion Post and TV3 news

For more information, please contact:

George Thomson
University of Otago, Wellington

Nick Wilson
University of Otago, Wellington

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