New laws are set to come into effect this coming Sunday (November 28th) that will make it illegal to smoke cigarettes or vape while in a car with children as part of the Smoke-free Environments Amendment Act.
The law applies regardless of whether the car is parked or mobile, with children termed as anyone who’s under the age of 18. If caught, those in the car can face either a $50 fine or a court-imposed fine of up to $100.
Smokefree New Zealand cites research showing that 15 per cent of New Zealand’s 15-year-olds are exposed to secondhand smoke in cars. It adds that the 2012-’13 New Zealand Health Survey indicates that children from “more deprived areas” are more likely to be exposed.
According to the 2018 Health Lifestyle Survey, a whopping 95 per cent of New Zealanders support the change. Similar rules have been in place in other countries for years, including Australia.
But that said, there are still fears of non-compliance. Shosha, a vape and hookah specialist, recently commissioned a national study. Interviewing 3700 past and present smokers, it found that driving was “the most common pattern trigger” for eight per cent of respondents.
Addictions Counsellor Leanne French fears that those who smoke and drive with children likely dovetail with the number one most common pattern trigger among smokers from the study; stress. Fifty-nine per cent of respondents said stress was their number one reason for lighting up.
“Triggers are made up of the people, places, things and situations that set off an urge to smoke. Driving has been proven to elevate people’s blood pressure, so when you add young children to the mix this can become a much more stressful situation,” says French.
“Any parent of young children knows how difficult it can be driving with kids in the car. There’s arguing, forgotten things, hunger, boredom, mess making, the chance of them being moody, melting down, and asking endless questions, unless you’re the parent of an angel.
“There are also emotional triggers which can make the driver want to reach for a smoke and these include anxiety, anger and even happiness and excitement, children have an inbuilt knack for setting them off at various times.
“Smokers still do need more education and exposure to information to help them understand what the health risks are not only to them, but to their children in order to change their minds more effectively.
“I would suggest they change the car environment, by clearing all smoking items out, including the inbuilt lighter to lessen the automatic nature of the habit. There are also a number of easily accessible online counselling services which can help smokers quit.”