Thursday 23 June 2011

Smoking in cars - a junk science retrospective

It seems that no matter which party is in power, the gradual prohibition of smoking moves on regardless. The latest development has been a private member's bill put forward by Labour MP Alex Cunningham to ban smoking in cars which have children in them. The BBC has reported it here and has helpfully given a campaigner a whole article to make the case for the ban without rebuttal here.

Since the ban seems rather limited—it targets a minority of a minority of the population—it's a shrewd way of moving smoking bans into private property and, if passed, you can guarantee that the 'next logical step' will be to ban smoking in the home. This would indeed be logical, since both cars and homes belong to the individual, and children spend far more time in the home than in the car.

The one aspect of smoking in cars that defies the prohibitionists is the fact in a moving vehicle with the window open, smoke is dragged out of the vehicle in a split second. There have been a small number of studies measuring smoke in vehicles and they have only ever found significant levels of secondhand smoke when all the windows are wound up. This is hardly surprising. Nor is it surprising that anti-smoking campaigners only refer to the window-wound-up scenario when pushing for bans.

Consequently, you may hear various claims about levels of smoke in cars being 23 times greater than in a bar, or such like. You may even hear the absurd claim that one cigarette smoked in a car produces the same amount of secondhand smoke as a whole evening in a smoky bar. These myths have all been debunked before, including—in one instance—by the Canadian Association Medical Journal. I didn't realise how much I'd written about this myself until I looked in the archive. Here are the main posts...

On the claim that smoke in a car reaches 23 times the level found in a smoky bar

The effect of opening a window even by 3 inches

ASH's wacky claim that opening the window means that smoke comes back in


Anonymous said...

Glad you hit this one.........

I busted chops on it on the charleston gazette for what it was worth!


Anonymous said...

Have you spelt 'cunningham' right?

Bill Gibson said...

Purely hypothetical being a lifelong non-smoker but if I chose to instal a Plasmacluster Air Con System in my car capturing 99.97% of airborne particulate can I then have the Government taken to court for neglegence in addressing outdoor air quality

Smith Harry said...

I don't like the smokers especially those who smoked when they drive.
smoke during driving is very bad habit.
wrong fuel london

Anonymous said...

What a strange statement, Faizan!
""I don't like the smokers....""
So? What do you want, and why do you care? What has the enjoyment of tobacco got to do with you?

I don't like people who do not like smokers...... I would like to see people who do not like smokers hounded and made to wear a badge.

Anonymous said...

How many more times does it need to be said: as a lad growing up in the 50s I would be exposed to more smoke in one visit to the cinema than most children today experience in their entire childhood. Not to mention the fact that, at home, every adult in the house was a smoker (and I was living with grandparents and aunts as well as Ma & Pa.)

Simon Williams said...

Of course, it's not like modern cars have these things called "air conditioning" and "ventilation" that blow air into and through the car, completely changing the air in the car every few minutes, is it?