HRB evidence supports ban on smoking in cars where children are present

Researchers: Dr Marie Sutton, Martin Keane and Louise Farragher, HRB Evidence Centre

HRB reviews on children’s exposure to second-hand smoke in cars led to a new Irish law banning smoking in cars where 1+ children are present
In Summary

When children are in a car where someone smokes, their exposure to the ‘second-hand’ smoke is linked to an increased risk of health problems. Yet they often have little control over whether and how long they stay in the car where someone is smoking.
Two reports by the HRB Evidence Centre directly supported a new Irish law banning smoking in cars where children are present.
One of the report authors then helped to commission a review of evidence on plain packaging of cigarettes, which has now also been signed into law in Ireland.

The Problem

Tobacco exposure kills around 5,500 people in Ireland each year. Children are particularly vulnerable to second-hand smoke, as their bodies are still developing and they have relatively high breathing rates. They are also vulnerable because they tend to have little control about when and how long they are in a car.

The Project

The HRB produced two evidence reviews for the Department of Health: one by Martin Keane on the effectiveness of methods to reduce or eliminate smoking in cars in which children are travelling, and a separate analysis by Dr Marie Sutton and Louise Farragher of health problems linked to children’s exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke in cars.

The Outcomes

The two reports highlighted that children being present with second-hand smoke in a car was linked to a worsening of asthma and an increased risk of lung infections, middle-ear problems and even some forms of cancer. The reports also pointed out that many jurisdictions have decided to place restrictions on smoking in cars where children are present.

The review of the evidence was one of the influences on the development of the (Tobacco Smoke in Mechanically Propelled Vehicles) Act 2014), which bans smoking in cars where children are present.

Following on from these reports, Louise Farragher represented the HRB on the Steering Group on Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products, where she helped to commission an evidence review by Dr David Hammond of the University of Waterloo, Ontario, on the use of plain packaging for cigarettes.

That review supported the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act, which means that tobacco products for sale in Ireland must be in plain packaging with graphic warnings on them about the health impacts of smoking.

Louise Farragher, Information Specialist, HRB Evidence Centre says:

'Smoking is still quite prevalent in our society, and while the smoking ban in 2004 tackled smoking in restaurants and other places of work, there was still a need to address exposure to smoke in cars, especially for children who are more vulnerable to that exposure. The evidence is hard to gather and process, it is time-consuming, but it’s important to inform policy that is designed to reduce the rates and harm of smoking'.