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Car Safety

Secondhand Smoke Effects to Children

Children exposed to high doses of secondhand smoke are at an increased risk of experiencing damaging health effects, such as:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis and Pneumonia
  • Colds and Sore Throats
  • Ear Infections
  • Lung Function Reduction, and
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Read more about secondhand smoke health effects.

Until you can quit, choose to smoke outside of your home and car! Do it for children!

Keeping Children Healthier and Safer While Riding in a Car!

EPA encourages parents and caregivers to keep their cars free of secondhand smoke when children are passengers and to place children in car and booster seats that are properly installed.

What can Secondhand Smoke in Cars do to Children?

Secondhand smoke in cars can be especially harmful to children because cars are small, confined spaces where children are closer to the smoker and the smoke. While a child’s lungs are still developing, they can be easily damaged by exposure to the high level of secondhand smoke in a car. Even though many smokers choose to open a window or increase the ventilation, the child passenger is still not fully protected. Secondhand smoke lingers long after the smoking stops.

What locations promote Smoke-Free Cars for Children?

To promote smoke-free cars for children and reduce their exposure to secondhand smoke in cars, several local and state governments and Puerto Rico have proposed or are proposing laws that prohibit smoking in cars when children are passengers. Louisiana, Arkansas, and Bangor, Maine have banned smoking in a car when a child is present. Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont, and Washington State do not allow smoking in foster parents homes and cars.

What Information can I get on Secondhand Smoke and Children?

Properly install and use car and booster seats to help protect your child from injury. Car seat inspection stations and child passenger safety technicians are nationwide. See www.nhtsa.dot.gov/CPS/Contacts for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's listing of currently certified child passenger safety technicians trained to help install child safety seats.  Check child safety seats to ensure they are correctly installed and a child is safer.

Learn more about protecting children from secondhand smoke by ordering EPA’s free materials. For example, the Smoke-free Car Decal is a reminder to keep the commitment of a smoke-free car for children. To order any of our free materials, go to www.epa.gov/smokefree/publications.html.

What can I Do to Help Keep Children Healthier and Safer in a Car?

Secondhand smoke is only one of the preventable dangers to child passengers. CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control reports that car crashes are among the leading causes of death for children in the United States (to read CDC's Child Passenger Safety: Fact Sheet, go to www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/childpas.htm). Child safety seats reduce the risk of injury related death to child passengers. Therefore, like childhood illness from secondhand smoke, childhood injury from improperly installed car seats is preventable.

Keep your car smoke-free to protect your child’s health

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