Nicotine in cars adds support for ban against smoking and driving: study

Nicotine levels are “strikingly higher” in smokers’ cars than in non-smokers’ vehicles, and even exceed those found in public or private indoor spaces where tobacco use is allowed, a study has found.

Nicotine levels are “strikingly higher” in smokers’ cars than in non-smokers’ vehicles, and even exceed those found in public or private indoor spaces where tobacco use is allowed, a study has found.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health tested air nicotine concentrations in smokers’ vehicles and found they were twice as strong as levels measured by other studies in public and-or private places and up to 50 per cent higher than measurements taken in restaurants and bars that permit smoking.

“We’re interested in what the second-hand smoke exposure might do to a non-smoker travelling in a car with a smoker,” said senior author Dr. Patrick Breysse.

“And it seems like the car is probably the last environment where people have begun to think about the risk of second-hand smoke exposure.”

“The car represents a unique sub-environment because it’s a confined space and the opportunity for elevated exposures, even though they’re for a shorter period of time, the exposures are greater,” Breysse said from Baltimore, adding that children are particularly at risk.

“So it’s probably something we need to be worried about.”

The researchers studied the vehicles of 17 smokers and five non-smokers who commuted to and from work for 30 minutes or longer.

Two passive airborne nicotine samplers were placed in the vehicles — one on the front passenger seat headrest and one in the back seat behind the driver — for a 24-hour period. In all, they analyzed 44 samplers.

“And we found that for each cigarette smoked in the car, there was about a doubling in the airborne nicotine concentration,” said Breysse, noting that the study took into consideration the size of each vehicle and the use of ventilation.

“Most people drive with the windows up and the air conditioning on,” he said. “We found that rolling the windows half-way down reduced the exposure … but not as low as we expected.”

The researchers, whose work is published Tuesday in the British Medical Association journal Tobacco Control, tested nicotine because it is a good marker for the other chemicals found in second-hand smoke.

Other studies have measured air-borne particles of toxic and cancer-causing chemicals known to be emitted from smoking, but those levels can be skewed by other sources, including those pumped into the environment from surrounding traffic.

“Nicotine is very unique to second-hand smoke exposure,” he said. “So by measuring that, we’re sure we’re assessing what the contribution of the smoke is.”

Dr. Peter Selby, clinical director of the addictions program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, said the research confirms what other studies have shown, that there is significant exposure to second-hand smoke in confined spaces — and a car’s no different.

“It’s a pivotal study in the sense that it helps raise the awareness of many health professionals as well as policy makers that we need to do something about this issue around smoke in cars,” said Selby, who was not involved in the research.

Many countries have introduced legislation banning smoking in public places, but most do not apply to tobacco use in cars. In Canada, Nova Scotia and Ontario are among the provinces that prohibit smoking in vehicles carrying children.

Because of their smaller lungs and faster breathing rate, children are especially at risk from the effects of second-hand smoke, he said.

“I think we need to do something clearly for the involuntarily exposed, for example children,” Selby said.

“But there’s only so much you can legislate. There’s also public education that’s required around this.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Artist Nathan Scott’s The Face-off is one of Red Deer’s most recent public artworks. It was installed at Servus Arena. (Advocate file photo.)
Red Deer city council opts to leave public art selection to a commission

Only projects costing at least $1 million will now trigger art component

Red Deer City Coun. Michael Dawe spoke up about an attempted break-in at his home during a city council meeting that discussed policing priorities. (Advocate file photo).
All crimes should be reported, says Red Deer’s RCMP superintendent

Policing priorities are cracking down on property and drug crimes

The number of active cases of COVID-19 in the province sat at 4,477 Monday afternoon, up 826 from Friday’s 3,651, said Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

Alberta reported 1,440 new COVID-19 cases on Monday from over the weekend,… Continue reading

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Three Red Deer based dealerships have donated $10,000 to various local organizations including the food bank. (File Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Three Red Deer car dealerships help organizations in need

Three Red Deer automobile dealerships have come together to donate $10,000 to… Continue reading

“Our members have decided they just can’t do this anymore. We’ve protected this province and you’ve treated us like dirt, so enough is enough,” says AUPE vice-president Bonnie Gostola, whose members protested outside the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre on Momday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Updated: Hospital workers strike in Red Deer

Some surgeries and ambulatory care clinics postponed around the province

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre could be affected by cuts to Alberta Health Services announced by the government Tuesday. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
David Marsden: Yes, we know how to do laundry

Union leaders would have us believe there’s something special about their members:… Continue reading

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Troy Hill (22) tips a pass in the end zone intended for Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. The ball was caught by Rams safety Taylor Rapp, behind, for a touchback. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis )
Rams dominate matchup of tough defences, beat Bears 24-10

Rams dominate matchup of tough defences, beat Bears 24-10

Matthew Raymond, charged with four counts of first degree murder, is taken from provincial court in Fredericton, N.B., on December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Mother of Fredericton shooter says she often advised him to see a doctor for help

Mother of Fredericton shooter says she often advised him to see a doctor for help

PM says budget update won’t have fiscal anchor, suggests one coming after crisis over

PM says budget update won’t have fiscal anchor, suggests one coming after crisis over

Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe speaks during a press conference in south Regina on Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. Moe will appear at a car rally with supporters this afternoon outside of Regina.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell
Four Moe Years: Scott Moe and Saskatchewan Party defeat NDP for 4th straight majority

Four Moe Years: Scott Moe and Saskatchewan Party defeat NDP for 4th straight majority

Bayern's Alphonso Davies controls the ball during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany on February 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matthias Schrader
Canadian star Alphonso Davies could be out for two months after injuring ankle

Canadian star Alphonso Davies could be out for two months after injuring ankle

B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
David Braley, owner of three Canadian Football League franchises, dead at 79

David Braley, owner of three Canadian Football League franchises, dead at 79

Most Read