A Northland health worker wants smoking banned in vehicles where there are children after new Canadian research "makes it clear that children's health rights are being violated by smoking in vehicles".
Northland DHB Smokefree adviser Bridget Rowse said a ban on smoking in vehicles while carrying children under the age of 18 would be one specific measure New Zealand could take to protect that right.
Ms Rowse said the Canadian research makes it clear that children's health rights are being violated by smoking in vehicles.
She said New Zealand has signed international agreements, such as the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which asserts second-hand smoke as a threat to these health rights, and imposes a duty on governments to protect "all persons" from second-hand smoke exposure.
She said there is a growing trend worldwide towards vehicular smoking bans and these are generally well-supported.
"Here in New Zealand, however, government drags its feet on this protective measure and, instead, asks the health sector to promote responsible behaviour to the public," Ms Rowse said.
The Canadian researchers cited recent international and New Zealand research, which has consistently shown the overwhelming majority of both adults and young people support a ban on smoking in cars, she said, including most smokers themselves.
Without exception, the young participants said they disliked - or "hated" - being around smoke and smokers, due primarily to the smell and having trouble breathing.
"They were very aware of the health risks, especially to them as children. However, many said they rarely spoke up when it happened for fear of angry reactions," she said.
According to the 2013 ASH Year 10 survey, 21.5 per cent of Northland's 14 and 15-year-olds have travelled in a car in the past seven days with someone who was smoking, compared to 18.5 per cent nationally.
New Zealand research from 2011 found negative role-modelling was also a concern and that observing family and friends smoking increases a child's risk of tobacco uptake.
• To get help to stop smoking, you can seek information from your local health provider, Aukati Kai Paipa quit coach www.aukatikaipaipa.co.nz or call Quitline on 0800 778 778.