Smoking in Cars Is More Harmful than You Think It Is

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

The 3 Week Diet

Sitting in the back seat with someone smoking can leave you gasping for air, an agonizing experience, and study suggests it’s harmful for both the smoker and passengers.

Particle pollution, or particulate matter (PM) is released into the air at alarming level that even exceeds the World Health Organization’s indoor air quality guidelines when someone smokes inside the car. This is true even the windows are down or when the air-conditioning unit is turned on.

Couple Argue Over Car SmokingAccording to the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), particle pollution is a concoction of liquid droplets and little particles. These tiny particles are so small that it can easily be inhaled, which can lead to heart and lung problems. Particle pollutions are common near roadways. Others are found in smoke and haze.


In a study, the researchers use a real-life car travels to build data. The research studied 17 volunteers, 14 of which are smokers, and followed their usual car travel routine for 3 days. Particulate matter is used as indicator for secondhand smoke. Instruments are installed at a breathing height in each volunteer’s car to measure the PM level on every “smoking trip”. Levels are measured and recorded every minute. In this study, the participants logged a total of 104 travels, 63 of which are “smoking trips”.

The result suggests that the PM levels averaged 85 mg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter) throughout the “smoking trips” and 7.4 mg/m3 throughout the non-smoking trips. The WHO indoor quality standard for PM concentration is 25 mg/m3. These findings are highly dependent on the number of cigarettes smoked. The study also found out that PM level inside the car with someone smoking can peak up to 880 mg/m3. Smoky pubs and bars can peak up to 250 mg/m3. 



Children exposed to secondhand smoke inside the car face a greater risk of health issues than adults. This is due to the fact that children have smaller and underdeveloped lungs, they breathe faster, they have weaker immune system, and they have less to say on what happens inside the car. Exposure to secondhand smoke during childhood can lead to different health problems ranging from hearing loss to COPD.

Smoking inside the car is more dangerous than you think it is. if you want to keep your child safe, you need to do more than just rolling the window down or turning the air-conditioning unit on – you need to quit smoking now. Now that you still have the time. Visit your doctor to know your choices.


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