Are You Risking Your Family’s Health Buying a Preowned Car from a Smoker?

by J D Sallen

Several recent university studies on the subject say yes!* Worse still, buying a preowned car from a nonsmoker who merely allowed in-car smoking can endanger your family’s health according the studies.

Researchers say secondhand smoke causes car interiors to become contaminated long-term with “residual tobacco smoke pollution (TSP).” Even a single cigarette smoked in a car generated an extremely high level of “fine respirable particles” from the secondhand smoke, researchers found. TSP collects on interior surfaces of cars preowned by smokers, and “commonly used cleaning and ventilation methods did not successfully decrease contamination levels.”

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The research also showed that smokers who think keeping the windows open solves the residual pollution problem need to think again. Even smoking with windows open generates “significantly high levels” of the TSPs responsible for the noxious interior coating of smokers’ preowned cars. Overall, preowned cars of smokers who smoked in their vehicles – even those who banned passenger smoking – “showed significantly elevated levels of nicotine in dust, on surfaces, and in the air compared with nonsmoker cars with smoking ban[s].”

Studies show “there is no risk-free level” of exposure to secondhand smoke, and TSP presents a serious health danger to adults and especially to children due to their small body size.

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*Residual tobacco smoke pollution in used cars for sale: air, dust, and surfaces. Nicotine Tob Res. 2008 Sep;10(9):1467-75. Department of Psychology, San Diego State University

Residual tobacco smoke in used cars: futile efforts and persistent pollutants. Nicotine Tob Res. 2010 Oct;12(10):1029-36. San Diego State University/University of California

An experimental investigation of tobacco smoke pollution in cars. Nicotine Tob Res. 2009 Jun;11(6):627-34. Department of Health Studies and Gerontology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario

Tobacco use and asking prices of used cars: prevalence, costs, and new opportunities for changing smoking behavior. Tob Induc Dis. 2008 Jul 31;4:2. Department of Psychology, San Diego State University

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