cig lgKENTUCKY (3/2/14) — Using a cell phone, texting and drinking alcoholic beverages are all activities that can lead to fines or arrest if done while in a moving vehicle. But in some areas, it is already illegal or may soon be, to smoke in a vehicle if in the presence of children.

Since 2006, several communities across North America have implemented laws to prevent smoking in cars when children are present, and campaigns for smoke-free car laws are poised to continue.

The public has become increasingly aware that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke, includes the smoke that a smoker exhales and the smoke that comes from burning tobacco products. Thousands of toxic chemicals are present in secondhand smoke, including formaldehyde, lead, butane, cyanide, and carbon monoxide. These dangerous chemicals can be inhaled and tend to linger in the air for hours or longer. Smoke residue also clings to a smoker's body and hair and can even surface inside of a home or vehicle, according to The Mayo Clinic.

Asthma, heart disease and cancer may result from contact with secondhand smoke. When someone smokes within the small enclosed space of a car, passengers are exposed to air that is many times more toxic than what the EPA considers hazardous air quality, even if a window is down. What's more, the particulates of tobacco smoke that are absorbed in the upholstery off-gas back into the air even after many days have passed, exposing riders to toxins well beyond when someone smoked in the car.

The developing bodies of children and their small stature put youngsters at risk for greater complications from cigarette smoke, although any passenger is at risk.

Laws vary depending on location and typically apply to children ages 16 and under. Smokers are urged to quit smoking for their health and the health of others. But those who continue to smoke should refrain from smoking when inside a vehicle, especially when children are present.

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