Fines for smokers urged to save kids

Smoking motorists should be forced to kick their habit if they are driving with children, a researcher says.

University of Otago senior research fellow Ben Healey said research showed that more than 100,000 New Zealand children were exposed to second-hand smoke in cars every week.

He hoped that the findings, published in theNew Zealand Medical Journal last week, would be considered in laws on smokefree environments.

''Apart from the obvious and well-known negative impacts on health, second-hand smoke causes, reduced youth exposure is likely to reduce smoking initiation,'' Healey said.

Unlike adults, children were often unable to leave smoke-filled cars, or were uncomfortable about asking an adult not to smoke.

A law preventing smoking in cars would help people quit the habit, he said.

There was a strong case for New Zealand to follow legislation banning the practice in some states in the US and in parts of Canada and Australia.

The report, published last week, used data from the national-level annual ASH survey of year 10 pupils from 2006 to 2012.

School pupils aged 14 and 15 were asked whether, in the past week, others had smoked around them in a car or van.

Pupils who reported that had happened on at least one day in the previous week were classified as exposed to secondhand smoke.

ASH director Ben Youdan said the organisation wanted smoking in cars banned as soon as possible.

''This is an area where legislation can make a difference to public health outcomes.''

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said last year that the Government was considering fines for smoking in a vehicle containing children, banning smoking in parks and clamping down on duty-free tobacco limits.

The proposed restrictions would be similar to those already in place in Queensland, where smoking in a car carrying a child incurs a $400 fine.

The issue has attracted significant comment on The Press' Facebook page. Several supported fines for people who smoke in their car with children under 16 inside, while others argued people could do what they wanted in their cars.

Jane Alford said: ''Only if you have children in the car, they should have the right to have clean air and decide when they are older if they smoke or not. Otherwise it should be the choice of the driver/owner.''

Katie Riordan proposed  ''that it be illegal to expose minors to cigarette smoke, in the same way that it is illegal for minors to be given alcohol. That way people could be fined or convicted for smoking in cars with children present. Adults can protect themselves, or not, if they choose''.

The Press