A Breath of Fresh Air

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It is common knowledge that second hand smoke is extremely dangerous for your health and even more dangerous to infants and children. Exposure to second hand smoke causes 150,000 to 300,000 acute lower respiratory tract infections (pneumonia and bronchitis) annually in children 18 months and younger; these infections result in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations each year. Second hand smoke exposure causes buildup of fluid in the middle of the ear, resulting in childhood operations and of childhood hearing loss. A California EPA study estimates that 46,000 (range is between 22,700 and 69,600) cardiovascular deaths, 3400 lung cancer deaths and 430 sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) deaths are annually associated with second hand smoke exposure.1 Many children are essentially forced to breathe in toxic fumes and particulates due to their parents’, siblings’, and surrounding elders’ poor choices. Enforcing stricter smoking laws and regulations can drastically help the effects second hand smoke causes in children’s health. “Choice” is a key word and the children do not have one. It is up to us, as responsible adults, to protect them and give them a healthy living environment for them to grow and develop in. Second- hand smoke, side-stream smoke or passive smoke can affect anyone near it, including innocent children which are sometimes overlooked. Infants and young children are especially susceptible since their lungs are still developing and childhood exposure to second hand smoke results in decreased lung function. Children who breathe second hand smoke are more likely to suffer from cough, wheeze, phlegm and breathlessness.2 There are many ways we can help protect them with simple changes in the way we live today.

While Environmental Tobacco Smoke exposure, otherwise known as ETS, is on the decline in California due to increased public awareness of its harmful effects, smoking in vehicles still poses a very real threat to vehicle occupants, especially children. Smoking can cause respirable suspended particle, otherwise known as RSP, and CO levels in cars to reach high levels when the windows are open or closed. Recent research from the Harvard School of Public Health has shown that ETS in cars can reach levels comparable to smoky bars or restaurants. In addition, smoke can settle on car surfaces, including child safety seats, making it possible for children to pick up ETS with their fingers, which they may place in their mouths, causing them to ingest ETS particles. In fact, next to workplaces, homes and cars are considered the most unhealthy places in terms of ETS exposure, again particularly for children.3 One step that we have made in the right direction towards car air quality for children, is Article 2.5 Smoking in Motor Vehicles 118947, the Marco Firebaugh Memorial Children’s Health and Safety Act of 2007, otherwise known as the “Smoke Free Cars” law. It was enforced as of January 1st 2008 and states that it is unlawful for a person to smoke a pipe, cigar, or cigarette in a motor vehicle, whether in motion or at rest, in which there is a minor. A violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars for each violation. Even though this new law is a great start to shielding children’s health problems from second hand smoke, there are still things that can be changed within this same law to maximize its power. For instance, this law states that a law enforcement officer shall not stop a vehicle for the sole purpose of determining whether the driver is in violation of this article. This part of the act should be changed, giving law enforcement the power to stop a vehicle just to determine whether a violation is taking place so that this law can have more of an impact. This act also punishes the violators by placing a fine of no more than one hundred dollars for each violation. I feel that this punishment is not enough and should be raised to a higher fine of at...
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