MONDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Although fewer kids are being exposed to smoking while riding in cars, more than 20 percent of nonsmoking teens still are, U.S. health officials report.
Secondhand smoke can be particularly intense in a closed space, such as inside a car, and poses a significant health risk, the researchers noted.
"There have been marked decreases in exposure to smoking in cars," said report author Brian King, an epidemic intelligence service officer in the Office on Smoking and Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "That decrease occurred whether they were nonsmokers or smokers," he noted.
"But what is alarming is that, despite that decrease, we are still seeing large levels of exposure, particularly among nonsmokers," King said. "One in five nonsmokers is still exposed to secondhand smoke in that environment."
The drop in smoking in cars is probably a mix of several factors, including fewer people smoking and smoke-free laws that also have a spillover effect on limiting smoking in homes and cars, King noted. In addition, there have been changes in the attitudes about social acceptability of smoking, especially when nonsmokers are present.
"We know that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke," King said.
The best way to eliminate secondhand smoke exposure is to implement 100-percent smoke-free environments, he added.
"Implementing voluntary smoke-free policies in your vehicle or expanding existing smoke-free policies that also include motor vehicles could help reduce that secondhand smoke exposure," King said.
Four states already have laws that prohibit smoking in cars when there are children aged 16 or younger inside. These states are Arkansas, California, Louisiana and Maine, along with Puerto Rico.
The report was published in the Feb. 6 online edition of Pediatrics.
All rights reserved