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Public ahead of politicians on smoking in cars ban

Students waiting for class

Thursday 24 September 2009 11:07am

A significant gap exists between concerns of the public about smoking in cars with children and the attitude of some politicians and officials to this health issue according to latest research from the University of Otago, Wellington. The findings are published in the on line New Zealand Medical Journal.

The initial research, by Dr Dylan Tapp and Dr George Thomson, from the Department of Public Health, found wide concern amongst government and NGO officials, and politicians, about possible 'nanny state' overtones in pushing for a smokefree car law.

However the public tends to take a contrary view, and supports the idea of a ban. Since this research, further evidence has emerged from University of Otago, Wellington researchers, and from the Health Sponsorship Council, of high public and smoker support for protecting children from smoking in cars.

New Zealand surveys have shown 96% smoker support for a law that bans smoking in cars with pre-school children, and 91% of the public (82% of smokers) support a smokefree car law where there are children under the age of 14.

Other reasons against a smokefree car law that were given by policymakers in the study included the perceived success of health marketing campaigns.

However, the success of similar laws in Australia, Canada and the United States did not appear to be widely known by New Zealand politicians and officials.

"There appears to be a wide gap between the thinking of some politicians and officials, and the public," says Dr Thomson. "The public wants laws to protect children from the very dangerous smoke exposure in cars."

"It's ironic there will be a law to ban cellphone use in cars, but an equally dangerous activity, particularly for children, is still allowed".

In light of the latest research on public support, Dr Thomson believes that more information on this issue needs to be provided to policymakers.

This research is funded by the Health Research Council.

For further information contact

Dr George Thomson
University of Otago, Wellington
Tel 04 385 5541 # 6054 or 6040 (messages)

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