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Politicians and officials reluctant to act against smoking in cars with children

Clocktower from the Leith

Wednesday 11 August 2010 8:57am

New Zealand politicians and officials put smokers’ rights before the health of children when considering smoking in cars, according to a study by the University of Otago, Wellington.

This is despite previous research from the University of Otago showing overwhelming support from New Zealand smokers and the general public for smokefree car laws, where children are passengers in the same vehicle.

This research showed that 96% of smokers surveyed support a law that bans smoking in cars with pre-school children, and 91% of the public support a smoke-free car law where there are children under 14 involved.

Lead researcher Dr George Thomson from the Department of Public Health says the study found significant concern for the vulnerability of children and the need for protection from second-hand smoke in an enclosed space.

“But when it came to translating words into action it’s a different story,” he says. “There were very mixed reactions across the political spectrum to the idea of a law enforcing smoke-free cars with children. This issue is not seen as politically attractive, difficult to implement, and barely on the radar in New Zealand.”

An important factor was the attitude of Prime Minister John Key in 2008 who said:
“I'm not opposed to banning smoking in bars, because other New Zealanders are there and people work there, but if you want to smoke in your own car, don’t be looking for a National Government to pass a law to tell you can’t do it in the next three years.”

This is in contrast to overseas countries, where smokefree car laws have been successfully enacted in a number of states and provinces in Australia, Canada and the United States. There was a lack of awareness by local policymakers of the public support for banning smoking in cars with children, and of the progress elsewhere on such laws.

In a survey of Australian smokers in 2007, smokers in South Australia, which had a smokefree car law, were far more likely to support such a law (94%) than smokers in other states (83%).

The study has just been published in the international journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research. It was funded by the Health Research Council.

For further information contact

Dr George Thomson
Department of Public Health
University of Otago, Wellington
Tel 4 385 5541, ext 6054 or 6040


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