While activities such as smoking whilst driving are not currently illegal in the UK, they do still pose a risk. As smoking requires you take one hand off the wheel for an extended period of time and can be distracting, police can charge you with careless driving if you are deemed not in control of the vehicle.
However, there is now another reason why smokers may rethink lighting up. A study conducted by British researchers has found that the car’s interior pollution increased dramatically if drivers or passengers were smoking in the car, sometimes to dangerous levels.
A smoke-free trip averages around 7.4 micrograms of pollution per cubic metre (μg/m3) whilst official guidelines dictate that 25 μg/m3 is the maximum safe level. Whilst levels of pollution vary with the number of cigarettes smoked per journey, the average level of interior pollution in a smoker’s car is 85 μg/m3 with peak levels averaging 385 μg/m3 – well above the safe level. What might particularly shock smokers is that even smoking with the air conditioning on, or the window open for ventilation, the levels of pollution will still exceed guidelines and expose passengers to unsafe levels of air pollution.
This is especially dangerous for children, whose faster breathing rates and less developed immune systems makes them particularly vulnerable to such pollution. In some countries such as South Africa and Cyprus, as well as in many areas of Australia, Canada and the US, smoking is already banned in private vehicles carrying children as passengers. The British Medical Association has already weighed in on this issue; in 2011 they called for the UK government to take similar steps and introduce a ban on all smoking in private vehicles.
There is never a better time to quit smoking than now, especially since there are still plenty of days left in Stoptober. The NHS provides free support to those who wish to quit smoking, including a free phone app with motivational advice and tips. And with all the money you’ll save on cigarettes, you might even be able to treat yourself to a new, smoke-free car!