The evidence is clear: smoking in motor vehicles when children are present carries a heavy price. Here are some ways to keep your vehicle smoke-free.
You wouldn't let your child light up a cigarette in your car, would you? Of course not, but some smokers don’t realize that second-hand smoke from their cigarettes can be just as bad for their kids.
Thankfully for children in Ontario, there's a new law that will keep them from breathing toxins from second-hand smoke while they are in the car. Starting on January 21, 2009, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2008 will make it illegal to smoke in cars when there are passengers younger than 16 years old. This applies to the driver or any other passenger who is smoking when someone younger than 16 years old is in the car. Offenders can be fined up to $250.00.
Consider quitting. It’s tough to quit an addictive habit. The new law and the New Year can be a good time to consider quitting smoking. If you want to quit, you don't have to go it alone. There is support:
Remove all reminders. If you smoke in your car, you may need to clean up. Remove ashtrays and the built-in lighter. Clean your car completely, and vacuum the inside of your car to remove stale leftover cigarette smoke and toxic residue.
Change your habits. Chewing gum and mints can keep your mouth busy when you are craving a cigarette. Those trying to stop smoking may choose nicotine gum.
Smoke before you leave on car trips. If you have to, smoke outside your vehicle before driving off.
Hide the cigarettes. Instead of storing your cigarettes in your purse or glove compartment, put them away in the trunk of your car.
Take breaks. On long trips, the temptation to light up may get to be too much. Pull over at rest stops or areas that allow smoking. Your children will still be close to you, but the open air will make their exposure to second-hand smoke much less dangerous.
Change course. You may want to switch the routes you drive everyday to avoid temptations to smoke, like the corner store where you buy cigarettes.
Pack snacks. Keep a few healthy, non-perishable snacks in your car. Nuts, raisins, and those one-portion snack bags all travel well.
Stay smoke-free - even when you're kid-free. Challenge yourself to keep a smokeless car even when you're on your own or with other adults. That way, you keep the air fresh and the upholstery unpolluted. And you'll give your own lungs a break.
Beat your cravings. In addition to gum and mints, research other quick "craving cures," like rubbing your hands together (at a stoplight!) or massaging your earlobes.
Remember why you're doing it. In the toughest moments of temptation, remind yourself that the difficulty you feel is nothing compared to the damage that second-hand smoke has on your child's health.
Post a sign. Stick a no-smoking sign to your car windows maknig it a smoke-free zone. If you can’t remove your car ashtray, attach small no-smoking stickers to it. Homemade signs made by your kids may be even more meaningful.
Canadian Cancer Society - Smokers' Helpline
Smoke Free Ontario - Quit...You Have It In You
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Canadian Cancer Society - Ontario
Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco Position Paper - Second-Hand Smoke
Ontario Medical Association Position Paper - Exposure to Second-Hand Smoke: Are We Protecting Our Kids?
Health Canada - Go Smoke Free
Ontario's Campaign for a Smoke-Free Ride