The law changed last month making it illegal to smoke in any vehicle with anyone under the age of 18. It is hoped that this will help to protect children and young people from the dangers of passive smoking. Every time a child breathes in second-hand smoke, they inhale thousands of chemicals putting them at risk of respiratory problems and other serious conditions.
Professionals who work with children and their parents can help protect the children they come into contact with, ensuring that parents are aware of the recent change in the law. Health visitors, practice nurses and other health professionals that work in the community can ensure that they make every contact with children and their families count by doing the following:
· Ensure that you are aware of the law
The law applies in England and Wales to any private vehicle that is enclosed wholly or partly by a roof; when people have the windows or sunroof open, or the air conditioning on and when someone sits smoking in the open doorway of a vehicle. It applies to every driver, including those aged 17. If a passenger smokes, both the driver and the smoker could be fined £50. The law does not apply in convertible cars or to electronic cigarettes.
· Educate parents and carers and promote the health of children and families
As part of the assessment of new patients/clients (eg antenatal contacts, new birth or movement in visits, or new-patient checks) enquire about their smoking status. If they are smokers and have regular contact with children, advise them about the new law and the fines they may incur if they are caught breaking it.
· Encourage parents and carers to consider smoking cessation
Be observant of service users. If you notice that they are smokers, encourage them to consider quitting, highlighting the benefits of giving up to themselves and those they care for. As healthcare professionals, we have a duty to advocate for the children cared for by smokers.
· Signpost and refer to smoking cessation services
Evidence suggests that people are more likely to succeed at quitting smoking when they enlist support with smoking cessation. Thus, it is important as community practitioners that we have up-to-date information about local smoking cessation services so we can signpost people to them. It is often better to refer people to these services rather than signpost as the uptake is often better with referrals.
· Continue to offer support
Those that feel supported are more likely to take responsibility for their health. So continue to offer support to parents and carers to remain non-smokers during follow up contacts.
· Be a good example
It is easier to encourage someone to take responsibility if we as healthcare professionals are doing the same. So if you are a smoker, perhaps it is time to consider quitting smoking too.
Smoking in cars is harmful and illegal. If we as community health professionals support parents and carers to stop smoking, they will be improving not just their health but that of those they care for.
If parents and carers want to know more about the law, see: