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What overlooked habit could be taking years off the lives of keiki here in Hawai‘i?

Here on the islands, we protect our ‘ohana, especially when it comes to caring for our keiki. In the car, for example, we make sure they have the proper car and booster seats, and we ensure they’re buckled up – because this helps protect them.

Still, for Hawai‘i parents with friends and family members who smoke, there is another danger that’s often overlooked – smoking in the car. Secondhand smoke exposure contributes to more than

41,000 deaths in nonsmoking adults and 400 infant deaths each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1 It’s more dangerous for our keiki than you might think. Even with windows open and fans blowing, it exposes all passengers to the toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke. The National Cancer Institute states these include:2

  • More than 7,000 chemicals
  • At least 69 of these toxic chemicals are known to cause cancer, including –
    • Arsenic
    • Benzene
    • Beryllium (toxic metal)
    • 1,3 – Butadiene (toxic gas)
    • Cadmium
    • Chromium (metallic element)
    • Ethylene Oxide
    • Nickel (metallic element)
    • Polonium (radioactive chemical element)
    • Vinyl Chloride
  • Other harmful chemicals include, but are not limited to–
    • Formaldehyde
    • Hydrogen Cyanide
    • Carbon Monoxide

In Hawai‘i, we have many laws that protect people from secondhand smoke in public places.  However, our keiki don’t have the option for clean air when they are in cars when adults are smoking.  Next week is Child Passenger Safety Week and an opportunity for Hawai‘i residents to take an additional step to protect our keiki and other loved ones by designating motor vehicles smoke-free zones.

Consider these four reasons to make your car smoke-free:

1. If you smoke in a car – even with windows down – keiki smoke, too

Minors, especially infants and young children, are among the most vulnerable and least able to avoid secondhand smoke. When someone in the car smokes, keiki inhale the toxic chemicals – as well as nicotine, which is an addictive substance, a potent stimulant, and a poison.3

Additionally, the gaseous and particulate components of tobacco smoke absorb into the upholstery and other surfaces inside a car, and then off-gas back into the air over the course of many days, exposing passengers to toxins long after anyone actually smoked in the car.4

According to the CDC, smokers lose 10 years of their life expectancy compared to nonsmokers. Through secondhand smoke exposure alone, non-smokers lifespans can be drastically reduced, too.5

2. Illnesses that cause absenteeism

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are susceptible to a variety of negative health effects, which can contribute to missed days at school. Secondhand smoke causes:3

  • Ear infections
  • More frequent and severe asthma attacks
  • Respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath)
  • Respiratory infections (bronchitis, pneumonia)
  • Greater risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

3. After just half a cigarette, the secondhand smoke in the car produces 10 times more pollutants than considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Even with the windows open, the compacted space of a car cabin is comprised of less available air volume to dilute particulate matter emitted by cigarette smoke. The California Air Resources Board reports that smokers release more fine air pollution particles into a car cabin from one cigarette than emitted per-mile by a car’s tailpipe.6

According to the EPA, pollutants in secondhand smoke can be up to 10 times higher than air that is considered unhealthy. Small particles released from burning cigarettes have the potential to leave deposits inside lungs when inhaled and are considered health hazards.7

4. Changes are coming

Kaua‘i and the island of Hawai‘i have already enacted laws preventing the use of tobacco and electronic cigarettes when children  are present inside a motor vehicle. The Honolulu City Council is currently considering a similar law, Bill 70, for O‘ahu.  More than three out of four O‘ahu residents support legislation to ban smoking in vehicles when children are inside, according to a public opinion poll conducted by the Hawai‘i Public Health Institute.

Bill 70 will protect keiki now and give them a better chance for a healthy life in the years and decades to come.

If You Smoke, You Can Quit

Finally quitting smoking for good may be a difficult personal decision, but it is ultimately a wise one considering the many benefits of breaking the habit. Thousands of Hawai‘i residents have put smoking behind them and you can, too.

If you’re interested in making smoking a part of your past and becoming a non-smoker, the Hawai‘i Tobacco Quitline offers a robust array of FREE resources to help Hawai‘i residents stop smoking.

If you want to begin to improve your health, as well as the health of your loved ones and everyone around you, call 1-800- QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit HawaiiQuitline.org.   Enrollment is completely free and the custom-designed programs are confidential and to help you quit – either via phone or online. There’s even an optional text feature which sends encouragements and important information on what you’re accomplishing as you quit.

The Hawai‘i Tobacco Quitline offers professionally trained, non-judgmental Quit Coaches®, free patches, gum, or lozenges and diligent follow through, providing a successful approach to quitting tobacco. The Quitline also works for vaping, so don’t hesitate to check out HawaiiQuitline.org or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW any time – we’re here for you 24/7.

Sources:

1 National Cancer Institute. Secondhand Smoke and Cancer.
(https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/second-hand-smoke-fact-sheet). [accessed 2017 September 5].

2 Centers for Disease Control. Smoking & Tobacco Use/Secondhand Smoke. (https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/secondhand_smoke/index.htm) [accessed 2017 September 5].

3 Centers for Disease Control. Secondhand Smoke (SHS) Facts. (http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/secondhand_smoke/general_facts/index.htm). [accessed 2017 August 31].

4 Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. Smokefree Cars http://www.no-smoke.org/learnmore.php?id=616. [accessed July 27, 2017].

5 Centers for Disease Control. Tobacco-Related Mortality. (https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/tobacco_related_mortality/index.htm). [accessed 2017 September 1].

6  Tobacco Free CA. Smoking in Cars is Toxic. (http://tobaccofreeca.com/secondhand-smoke/in-cars/). [accessed 2017 September 5].

7 California Environmental Protection Agency. Secondhand Smoke In Cars Fact Sheet. (https://www.arb.ca.gov/toxics/ets/documents/ets_cars.pdf). [accessed 2017 September 5].