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Most Nebraska residents voluntarily have smoke-free vehicles, especially when children are present, said George Haws, the coordinator of the Community Connections program — Tobacco Free Lincoln County.
In the most recent Nebraska Adult Tobacco Survey, 50 percent of those who smoke said their vehicles are smoke-free at all times. Another 41% prohibit smoking when children are present. Of non-smoking residents, the corresponding numbers were 96% and just 3%, Haws said. The survey is conducted periodically by Nebraska Health & Human Services, he said.
Haws said Stanford University research shows smoking in a vehicle can result in pollution that far exceeds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency safety standards. That is true even when the car windows were open, he said. “Ironically, although people in a city may stay indoors when prompted by EPA warnings, they may smoke regularly in their vehicles without realizing that this can expose them, and their passengers, to an even greater risk,” he said.
Haws said secondhand smoke is hazardous to anyone. Children are especially vulnerable. Children breathe more air for their body sizes than adults.
Haws said particles from smoke can remain in the air for an extended period; and even after they settle onto surfaces, occupants can inhale them.
“The best policy is not to smoke in a vehicle at any time,” he said. States that prohibit smoking in vehicles when children are present are: Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon, Utah and Vermont as well as the territory of Puerto Rico. Haws said most of Canada is covered by similar laws.
Haws said people can proclaim their car’s smoke-free status with an image that clings to car windows and says, “This is a smoke-free vehicle.” The free images can be ordered by calling 696-3356, or through the CommunityConnectionsLC page on facebook. Tobacco Free Lincoln County is funded by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services/Tobacco Free Nebraska Program, as a result of the Tobacco master settlement agreement of 1998.