Driver anti-smoking campaign worked, says research

PAUL EASTON
Last updated 05:00 04/07/2014

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Smoking in cars with children on board should be banned, say researchers who watched drivers lighting up in Wainuiomata.

The University of Otago Wellington study found a local That’s How We Roll campaign had helped fight the practice.

However, even the lower smoking levels achieved still left Wainuiomata with a level five times higher that in Karori.

The study found smoking in vehicles dropped from 6 per cent in 2005 to 5 per cent in 2011, and 3 per cent in 2013.

University of Otago Wellington researchers watched more than 57,000 vehicles in Wainuiomata after the That’s How We Roll campaign, which included a webpage, radio advertising, signs at school dropoff zones, club rugby, branding at community and school events, smokefree car information packs and a smokefree car story competition.

Lead author associate professor George Thomson said the results reflected the effort put into the campaign, and what community efforts could do. They also showed governments should  ‘‘step in to protect children’’.

‘‘If governments can successfully do this in Australian states, Canadian provinces and American states, then they can here. Why do we have laws to protect children in cars with seatbelts and carseats – but not protect them from hazardous airborne poisons in a confined space?’’

Another researcher, associate professor Nick Wilson, said smoking in vehicles could seriously harm children’s health because of the confined space and the fact that   their lungs were still developing.

Secondhand smoke increases problems such as asthma, cot death and glue ear. More than 350 New Zealanders die each year from  exposure to secondhand smoke.

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia congratulated the Wainuiomata community for their efforts.

‘‘However, I believe that we must be vigilant and do everything we can to remove tobacco from our lives and achieve our goal of a smokefree country by 2025 ...  I have always supported a ban on smoking in cars, and I think the Government should seriously consider introducing such legislation.’’

British American Tobacco New Zealand  spokeswoman Dawn O’Connor said people should not smoke in cars when children were present. 

‘‘BATNZ supports approaches like the community education programme that has been successful in Wainuiomata, but we question if a ban is justified when education appears to be effective.’’

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- The Dominion Post

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