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Another way to keep our kids safe and healthy

Anyone who has been watching the news on television, listening to the radio or reading the newspapers knows by now that Wolfville is the first municipality in Canada to pass legislation on smoking in cars when children aged 18-and-under are present.

You might wonder why this has to be legislated. Isn’t it common sense? According to Statistics Canada, one in five children under the age of 12 is exposed to second-hand smoke in cars. It’s basically a health issue to ensure that our children aren’t at risk.

Why cars? Will our own homes be next?

The reason vehicles have been targeted is because of the high concentration of second-hand smoke in such a small, enclosed space. It’s as if your kids in the backseat are smoking themselves.

Even your pets are suffering! The smoke particle concentrations in cars is higher than in smoke-filled bars and 23 times more toxic than in a house.

Opening your window simply doesn’t cut it, unless you’re driving with your head out, which is a dangerous idea! Much of the smoke blows right back in, plus the smoke from the burning cigarette is also hazardous to your child.

Breathing second-hand smoke is harmful to your children’s health and has been linked to asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease, plus they’re at increased risk for cancer and heart disease in adulthood.

Children are especially vulnerable because they’re smaller, their immune system is less mature and their respiratory tracts are still developing.

Set an example

By keeping your car smoke-free, even if you are a smoker, you set a better example for your children and they are actually less likely to begin smoking themselves. You are sending them the message that even though you smoke, you recognize that second-hand smoke is dangerous and unhealthy.

It’s easy to keep your car smoke-free. Start by cleaning it thoroughly. Vacuum the carpets and upholstery; empty the ashtray; clean the upholstery; and wipe down the dash. Air it out for a few hours on a dry day. Already the interior of your car will smell sweeter and more pleasant.

Unplug the cigarette lighter as a reminder to refrain from smoking and to decrease the temptation to light up.

If a passenger wants to smoke in your car while children are present, ask them to please wait until they reach their destination. Maybe a sign or sticker that says, “Thank-you for not smoking in our car” might be a good reminder.

And one more benefit to a smoke-free car is you have just increased the resale value of the vehicle! Your upholstery is less likely to become damaged and your car will smell cleaner.

As parents and adults, we want to protect our children. We dress them warmly in the winter so they don’t get cold, we strap them into carseats in case we’re involved in a motor vehicle accident, we put helmets on their head when they’re biking or skating to prevent head injuries, we hold their hands when we cross the street, we apply sunscreen at the beach and we immunize them to prevent the spread of diseases.

Maintaining smoke-free vehicles is simply another way of keeping our children safe and healthy.

Our kids are vulnerable and they do not have as much control as adults over their environments. Children cannot always communicate their concerns, nor are they necessarily aware of the impacts and health risks of breathing second-hand smoke. Babies and young children depend on parents for transportation and older children and teens need rides to school, friend’s houses and to the mall. They don’t always have the same choices and options as adults.

If you choose to smoke, take it outside. Why not? You can protect your children and other passengers in the car, you can be a better role model and you can all enjoy a cleaner, fresher, healthier air quality. Everybody wins.

Organizations: Statistics Canada

Geographic location: Wolfville, Canada

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