Exposure to secondhand smoke is associated with an increased risk of adverse health effects among children. Although smoking in the home is an established major source of exposure, less is known about rules on smoking in cars.
In a survey including a sample of secondary school students in Nottingham (UK) in 2012, participants were asked whether smoking was allowed in the family car, and how often the respondent travelled in a car in which smoking was allowed. Rules on smoking in cars were investigated in relation to socio-demographic variables and whether children had ever smoked themselves using logistic regression.
Of 4,190 students aged 11–16 who provided data, approximately 12% reported that smoking was allowed in their family car and 35% that they travelled in a car where smoking was allowed at least sometimes. Absence of smoke free rules in the family car was more likely to be reported by children from more disadvantaged families, if parents and friends were smokers and if smoking was allowed in the main home. These factors, and having a sibling who smokes, were also independently associated with an increased risk of travelling in a car in which smoking was allowed at least sometimes. Respondents who were not protected from secondhand smoke in the car were also more likely to have ever smoked (adjusted odds ratio 1.59, 95% CI 1.18-2.14).
Absence of smoke free rules in a family car and travelling in a car where smoking was allowed was relatively common among secondary school students, was strongly related to social disadvantage and a higher risk of smoking experimentation. Measures to prevent such exposure are therefore indicated.