The Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada is calling for the provinces to make smoking in cars illegal if there are children in the car. Much as I hate “nanny state” laws, they have a solid case. While everyone is exposed to a variety of toxic substances all the time, when it comes to deliberately causing exposure you have to look at risks vs. benefits (e.g. cars emit pollution, but have some benefit to society). In this case, we know that second-hand smoke concentrations in a car are higher than in a smoky bar, even with the windows down, and that second-hand tobacco smoke contains numerous known carcinogens and can cause irreversible damage after as little as half an hour of exposure, so there’s definitely a risk. On the benefit side, there is nothing. If you’re an adult and choose to expose yourself to the risk, that’s your choice. As soon as you expose someone else to the risk, that’s a different story.
Here in Alberta, the provincial government is saying they have to “respect the rights of the smoking public.” To me, the rights of the children far outweigh the so-called rights of the smokers in this case. I’d like to think smoking in cars with children could be stopped or significantly reduced through education rather than laws, but experience with things like cell phones while driving leads me to suspect it won’t work.