Kids Strapped in for Secondhand Smoke

A local mom talks about seeing children buckled into a car as the driver smoked.

I don’t know how other people feel about taking two boys under the age of 3 to the grocery store, but I can tell you I avoided it at all cost. However, on one particular day, I had no choice but to brave the store with my boys. While shopping I noticed another mom with two small children about the same age as my boys. We passed each other a few times around the store and I could tell she was struggling keeping her kids contained, as was I. As I was checking out I passed her one more time, we smiled at each other and had an unspoken mom moment of, “we can get through this.” After I got my groceries loaded and kids buckled into their car seat, I noticed this mom one more time pulling out of the parking lot, but I was sad to see her two kids buckled in the back seat of the car and a cigarette in her hand.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “88 million nonsmoking Americans, including 54 percent of children aged 3–11 years, are exposed to secondhand smoke. Even brief exposure can be dangerous because nonsmokers inhale many of the same poisons in cigarette smoke as smokers.” In addition, the CDC reports that an estimated 443,000 or 1 in 5 deaths each year are caused by cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS). Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can have negative health effects because the nonsmokers are still exposed to harmful chemicals and pollutants.

The U.S. Surgeon General reports have stated that secondhand smoke has negative health implications and that smoking and tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death in the United States. The following findings are from Surgeon General reports in regards to secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure:

  • SHS causes disease in children and in adults who don’t smoke.
  • Exposure to SHS while pregnant increases the chance that a woman will have a spontaneous abortion, still-born birth, low birth-weight baby, and other pregnancy and delivery problems.
  • There is no safe level of exposure to SHS. Any exposure is harmful.
  • On average, children are exposed to more SHS than non-smoking adults.
  • Smoking by parents can cause wheezing, coughing, bronchitis, and pneumonia, and slow lung growth in their children.

After reading this list, my thoughts keep going back to those two little kids buckled into their seatbelts with no choice at all but to be exposed to their mother’s secondhand smoke.

[Ed. Note: California law prohibits smoking in cars with minors.]

My intention in writing this article is not to “bash” smokers, but to act as a reminder that smoking not only impacts your health, but the health of everyone around you. For those smokers who make a conscious effort to smoke in designated areas and avoid smoking around children, your efforts are very much appreciated.


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