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'Shocking' effects of second-hand car smoke

05 October 2015 09:30

The ban aims to protect children from the effects of tobacco smoke

The ban aims to protect children from the effects of tobacco smoke

Smoking in cars with children present became illegal in England this week - and new figures suggest why the law may be important.

Newcastle University's Transport Operations Research Group found second-hand smoke poses serious risks to the health of youngsters, with high levels of dangerous chemicals with windows down and up.

It is hoped the ban on smoking in cars will protect those under the age of 18 from the effects of tobacco smoke.


Second-hand smoke contains 4,000 chemicals, more than 50 of which can cause cancer.

The researchers found levels of dangerous chemicals - fine particles 100 times thinner than a human hair known as PM2.5 - were more than 100 times higher than recommended safety guidelines with windows open.

With windows closed and the fans on, levels were more than 200 times the safe limits.

In fact, levels of poisonous carbon monoxide were two to three times worse than on a busy road at rush hour.

Lung cancer

Smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer in the UK, accounting for around 90% of cases.

More than 41,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year.

But a diagnosis does not mean life has to stop. Patients can still enjoy holidaying overseas with the protection of a cancer travel insurance policy.

'Never safe'

Dr Anil Namdeo and his team tested having the windows open or closed, fans on or off, and with the air recirculating or not.

Drivers drove around Newcastle for 20 minutes as part of the test, replicating a school run.

They were joined in the car by volunteer smokers. Dummies were used in the back seats of the cars instead of children.

Professor Kevin Fenton, national director for health and wellbeing for Public Health England, describes the data as "shocking". He says it reinforces that smoking in vehicles with a child is never safe.

Youngsters are more susceptible to the effects of second-hand smoke than adults. This is because they breathe more frequently and their respiratory systems and immune systems are still developing.

The new ban means the driver and any smoker will be fined £50 if they have someone under 18 in the car too.