A group of Whangarei students have been collecting submissions to present to the Government to ban smoking in cars carrying children aged under 18.

The students, who are completing voluntary community service through Blue Light, were out in force at the Cancer Society's Relay for Life last month, talking to participants about banning smoking in cars that carry young people and encouraging them to sign postcard submissions to be sent to the Government.

Relay For Life is a weekend event where the participants get together to celebrate cancer survivors and caregivers; remember loved ones lost to cancer; and fight back by raising awareness and funds to support the work of the Cancer Society.

There was tremendous support from Relay for Life participants for banning smoking in cars carrying kids, with almost 500 postcard submissions signed and collected from the event. They all agreed that banning smoking in cars when children are present would be a significant step in protecting children against the harms of second-hand smoke, health promoter for the Cancer Society Northland, Jim Callaghan, said.


"All parents want the best for their children and our purpose was to inform parents of the very real dangers posed by smoking around their children in the confined space of their car," said Marnie Reid, Blue Light co-ordinator.

"It sends a very clear message that the seriousness of exposure to second-hand smoke as a health issue should not be underestimated."

Children and babies are unable to escape from the poisons contained in cigarette smoke when confined in a car with a smoker and they are particularly susceptible to illnesses such as pneumonia, middle ear infection and asthma attacks when exposed to second-hand smoke.

Several laws already exist to regulate the car environment with the safety of children in mind, including seatbelt use and special fittings for child passengers. Eliminating second-hand smoke in cars is a natural extension of this.

Last September, more than 2000 Northlanders signed a petition requesting a government ban on smoking in cars carrying children under the age of 18 that was presented to Parliament. Mr Callaghan said the combination of enormous community support and mounting evidence that the confined space of a car increases exposure to second-hand smoke meant it was timely for the Government to consider a ban on smoking in cars when children are present.

"We can be confident any legislative change in this area will be largely self-enforcing, and welcomed by the community."