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The 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health

Building capacity for a tobacco-free world

July 12-15, 2006, Washington, DC, USA

Thursday, July 13, 2006 - 4:45 PM

Children's Exposure to Secondhand Smoke in Private Cars: Developing Policy from Empirical Science

Vaughan W. Rees, PhD and Gregory N. Connolly, DMD, MPH. Public Health Practice, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Ave, Landmark Building, Level 3 East, Boston, MA 02115

Objective: Exposure to second hand tobacco smoke (SHS) imposes a significant health burden on children, increasing their risk for a range of respiratory diseases. While legislative protection for SHS exposure exists for workers in several US states, there are no protection strategies for children. Monitoring of children's exposure to SHS in passenger vehicles, in which children are restrained and air volumes are small, has not been conducted. We monitored air quality inside a car before, during, and after smoking, to simulate infant exposure in real traffic conditions.

Methods: Respirable Suspended Particles (RSPs) of 2.5 micron diameter and carbon monoxide were measured. Monitoring devices were positioned in an empty child restrainer seat placed in the rear passenger seat. 45 sessions were conducted in which a non-smoking baseline (10 min), active smoking of one cigarette (5 min), and post smoking (10 min) were monitored. Ventilation was varied under Open and Closed window conditions. Data were averaged over 1 min intervals.

Results: Both Closed and Open ventilation conditions produced significantly higher peak and average RSP levels during active smoking period compared with baseline, and Closed ventilation was significantly higher than Open (peak levels: 339 v. 67 mg/m3; mean levels: 272 v. 51 mg/m3). Peak RSP levels and CO levels were correlated. Discussion focuses on how public policy can be informed and driven by basic empirical research. Effective public health communication strategies are recommended to protect children from SHS, particularly in cars where harmful RSP levels may exceed even smoky bar environments.