OPINION: This month marks the of new rules requiring all children to be secured in an approved restraint when travelling in vehicles until their 7th birthday.
As these new regulations intend to increase children's health and safety, it seems the perfect time to ask why there are no regulations to protect children from the harms of second-hand smoke when travelling in vehicles.
Children and youth are vulnerable groups with little ability to choose or influence their surrounding environments.
The confined space of a vehicle allows concentrated tobacco smoke (and toxins contained within) to accumulate and be breathed in by any children in the vehicle, jeopardising their health.
Children are more susceptible to second-hand smoke due to their smaller size and more frequent inhalations, and tend to be vulnerable to tobacco-related illnesses due to their periods of growth and weaker immune systems.
There is strong public support in New Zealand for reducing children's second-hand smoke exposure.
An article published this year in the New Zealand Medical Journal found 88 per cent of those questioned in a representative poll agree that smoking should not be allowed in cars with children present.
Of those who smoke, 78 per cent supported this proposal - an acknowledgment that children travelling in cars do not have any choice in terms of second-hand smoke exposure.
So while today's new regulations, designed to ensure children's safety when travelling in vehicles, are undoubtedly desirable, they highlight inconsistencies in the Governments approach to child safety - especially in terms of second-hand smoke exposure given the Government's commitment to the goal of a Smokefree Aotearoa/New Zealand by 2025.
Health Promotion Co-ordinator (Southland)
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