Making it illegal to smoke or vape around children in cars is one more step towards taking tobacco out of daily life, says a leading public health agency.

From 28 November 2021, it will be an offence to smoke or vape in a motor vehicle carrying anyone under 18 years old.

Jasmine Graham, Team Lead of the National Tobacco Control Advocacy Service for Hāpai Te Hauora, says as well as the health benefits of reduced exposure to secondhand smoke, the new law will help reinforce the message that smoking and vaping was not a normal part of everyday life.

"Secondhand smoke is clearly and demonstrably linked to lower respiratory tract infections, sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, heart disease, strokes, lung cancer and ear infections," says Graham.

"When you’re talking about a confined space like the inside of a car, the impact of secondhand smoke is even greater: winding down the window might reduce the smell, but it doesn’t get rid of the compounds that do the damage," Graham says.

Kirsty Anderson, Waitākere community member and mother of four, says that she strongly supports the kaupapa and it has been a long time coming. "Even when I use to smoke I made it a rule to never smoke in my car. That was my way of protecting my children from the harms of secondhand smoke," says Anderson.

"Quitting was hard but having laws like this can help people stop and think before they light up. A conscious effort to provide a healthier future for our tamariki," Anderson says.

Graham wants people who smoke to see the new law as a reason to review their own behaviour.

"For some people, getting behind the wheel can trigger the urge to light up. We hope this law will be a trigger for them to think about when and why they smoke."

Limiting the places where people can smoke also sends an important message to rangatahi and tamariki, says Graham.

"Twenty years ago, having a cigarette - or breathing in the toxins from someone else’s cigarette - was part and parcel of a night at the pub," says Graham.

"Twenty years before that, it was part and parcel of going to work, or sitting at the back of the bus.

"Nowadays, that sounds ridiculous - and it was. But letting people smoke in a confined space around children is equally ridiculous, and it’s high time we recognised that."

Five tricks to help you stop smoking in the car

  • Throw away the cigarette lighter
  • Put a packet of chewing gum in the ashtray
  • Turn up the tunes to help you relax
  • Agree with the whānau that your car is always smokefree for everyone
  • Display Smokefree/Auahi Kore stickers to show the world that you mean business!