A ban on smoking in cars with children was implemented in April 2015 in England and December 2016 in Scotland.
With survey data from both countries (NEngland=3,483-6,920 and NScotland=232-319), scientists show how such policies can be useful in reducing exposure and are likely to have had lasting impacts on child health.
The study shows that the ban was associated with an absolute reduction of 4.1% in the number of children who reported exposure to cigarette smoke.
Dr. Anthony Laverty, from the School of Public Health at Imperial and first author on the paper, said: “Like the smoking ban introduced to pubs and restaurants, banning smoking in cars increasingly ‘denormalizes’ the act of smoking for children.”
“This has a dual effect, not only reducing the amount of second-hand smoke they are exposed to but also reducing the amount of smoking they see. Given how vulnerable children are to second-hand smoke, reducing their exposure to cigarette smoke will likely result in improved health.”
The results revealed an overall downward trend in the proportion of children aged 13-15 years old who reported being exposed to cigarette smoke.
Self-reported regular exposure to smoke in cars were 6.3% in 2012, 5.9% in 2014 and 1.6% in 2016 for England, compared with 3.4%, 2.2%, and 1.3% in Scotland, revealing a significant drop in England following the introduction of the ban.
Dr. Laverty explained: “Using data from self-reported surveys always carries a margin of error, but we’re confident these responses give a good picture of what these children are experiencing and the changing trend.”
Dr. Nick Hopkinson, from Imperial’s National Heart and Lung Institute, who led the research, said: “We know that smoking in enclosed spaces, such as a car, can be harmful to the health of others – particularly children, which may be more susceptible to respiratory conditions.”
“But there is also an association with smoking uptake to take into account. If children see people smoking around them, they are far more likely to take up the habit themselves. Our study shows that policies such as a public ban on smoking in cars help to break that cycle and help to reduce the harms associated with tobacco.”
The research -was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and published in Thorax.