James Cant: Keep cars free from smoke

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With the school holidays now in full swing, people across the country are taking to the roads this summer to find new ways to amuse their kids.

As families pack up the car and prepare to set off, we’re backing the drive to remind drivers to keep summer car journeys smoke-free in order to best protect their young passengers from second-hand smoke.

With parents spending more time with their kids over the summer season, either on holiday or at home, it’s important they have the facts on the invisible dangers of second-hand smoke so they take it right outside of the house or car.

If you smoke in the car with children in the back, even with the window open, the reality is that you are exposing them to dangerous levels of harmful chemicals almost immediately. In fact, research shows that harmful chemicals from cigarette smoke reach dangerous levels in less than 60 seconds.

Second-hand smoke contains more than 4000 chemicals and as children breathe faster than adults, it does even more harm to their lungs.

It is estimated that second-hand smoke exposure in UK children each year causes more than 20,000 cases of lower respiratory tract infection, 120,000 cases of middle ear disease, at least 22,000 new cases of wheeze and asthma, 200 cases of bacterial meningitis, and 40 sudden infant deaths, which is one in five of all cot deaths.

Every parent wants to do the right thing to protect their kids and we’re helping people to get the facts so they can make positive steps towards protecting their children. By making small changes, everyone can enjoy a safe and healthy summer. For advice on how to take smoking right outside, visit www.rightoutside.org.

• Dr James Cant, head of the British Lung Foundation in Scotland and Northern Ireland