There are no laws in Washington and Idaho that prohibit smoking in cars when children are present. But, research shows smoking in a vehicle can be harmful to the child through both secondhand and thirdhand smoke.
Since secondhand smoke is something we do not voluntary agree to breathe in, many states ban smoking in most public spaces and commercial transportation to protect non-smoking passengers.
Air from secondhand smoke is many times more harmful to a child’s lungs than regular hazardous air quality like what we experienced during the fire season. Having a window down while driving really does not improve anything either.
But what about thirdhand smoke?
Researchers now have good reason to believe that thirdhand smoke can continue to affect our health. Thirdhand smoke is the residual nicotine and chemicals from tobacco products that seeps into the upholstery of our cars and other surfaces. The residuals can then readmit into the air exposing kids and adults to toxins.
“When the smoke settles on the air, surfaces and upholstery, when it settles it still contains the cancer-causing chemicals,” said Pediatric Pulmonologist at Sacred Heart, Alma Chavez.
Medical professionals like Dr. Chavez see people with thirdhand smoke exposure showing signs of nicotine in their blood and urine.
Smoke exposure has been proven to have an impact. In 2015, there was a study in the Journal of Pediatrics that looked at gross motor development at children at 18 months of age who were exposed to second hand smoke. Those children were behind their peers in development.
This is an increased concern for children who already have respiratory problems. Doctor Chavez said if a child already has a predisposed chance of asthma, then you add smoke exposure, you could make their illness worse than had it been without the smoke exposure.
Dr. Chavez said the proof is in her patients. She said patients have told her their symptoms went away as soon as they moved out of their smoking parent’s house.