Smoking and vaping in cars with children to be banned

The Government announced today it will ban smoking with children in the car.
The Government announced today it will ban smoking with children in the car.

It will soon be illegal to smoke or vape with children in the car. 

The Smoke-free Environments Act will be amended to ban smoking or vaping with people under the age of 18 while in vehicles, parked or moving.

It's expected the ban will be enacted by the end of the year.  

The Government's Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa made the announcement at an Auckland event on Sunday. 

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"First and foremost this change is about protecting children. However, it is also part of the Government's commitment to achieving Smokefree 2025," Salesa said.

"Too many New Zealand children, particularly Māori and Pacific children, are exposed to second-hand smoke in the vehicles they usually travel in.

"Children are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke due to their smaller lungs, higher respiratory rate and immature immune systems."

The move has been welcomed by Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft, who said it could benefit 100,000 Kiwi kids every week. 

"Once this legislation is passed [children] will no longer be forced to inhale this chemical poison," Becroft said. 

Salesa said public education and social marketing campaigns had made some impact but the rate of reduction in children exposed to smoking in vehicles was slowing. 

The law will allow for police to require people to stop smoking in their cars if children under 18 are present. Police will also be able to use their discretion to give warnings, refer people to stop-smoking support services, or issue a $50 fine.

Professor Janet Hoek from ASPIRE2025, a research programme working toward a tobacco-free Aotearoa, said there was clear evidence smoking in cars harmed children. 

"If someone is smoking in a car, the concentration of smoke is very high and children can't remove themselves from a space like that. They've got limited autonomy and control over the situation," Hoek said. 

A child sitting in a smoke-filled car would be exposed to more than 4000 harmful chemicals, she said.

"Exposure to smoke is really harmful whether its directly or indirectly, but research shows that even when the cigarette is hanging out of the window there is still a very high concentration of chemicals."

In 2016 the Health Select Committee recommended banning smoking in cars with children, which Salesa said was "ignored" by the previous government. 

Surveys had shown about 90 per cent of people supported the ban, she said.

Smoking in cars with children is already banned in Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, parts of the United States, and most of Canada.

Vaping will also be included in the prohibition and it will apply to all vehicles, both parked and on the move.

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