No smoke, baby
Medical group pushes butt ban in cars carrying children

Fri, October 15, 2004

TORONTO -- Not in front of the children. The Ontario Medical Association is calling for a ban on smoking in vehicles carrying children. It's one of nine recommendations to protect children from the dangers of second-hand smoke.

"Children have no control over their environment," the OMA's Dr. Ted Boadway said yesterday while releasing the recommendations. "They have no choice over what they're going to breathe. Someone else makes the choice for them."

Ontario should be a leader in North America in banning smoking in cars with young passengers, Boadway said.

"Once people understand the severity of the problem, people respond," Boadway said, noting it took seven years to pass mandatory bike helmet laws.

"Today's 'no' is tomorrow's legislation."


Health Minister George Smitherman said it's up to parents to protect kids from second-hand smoke in cars, adding his government plans to move ahead with its pledge to ban smoking in all public spaces and workplaces.

Kids are especially vulnerable to second-hand smoke, which is linked to SIDS, asthma, cognitive problems as well as heart disease and cancer, Boadway said.

About 800,000 Ontario children are exposed to second-hand smoke, which can make a home feel like a smoky bar, Boadway said. The exposure is 20-25 times greater in a car -- opening a window isn't effective unless a "gale-force wind" blows through.

OPP Sgt. Cam Woolley said officers are pulling over smokers who are often distracted from driving as they light up or drop cigarettes.

"Smoking in cars is already an improper behaviour," Woolley said, adding a public education campaign would likely be more effective than legislation.

The OMA also called for a ban on smoking in home daycares and for uniform rules for foster homes.

But Jeanette Lewis, executive director of the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, said "critical shortages" of foster homes make it difficult to implement a no-smoking policy.