From Sunday 28 November, it will be illegal to smoke or vape in cars carrying a child or young person under the age of 18. This law was passed last year in May under The Smoke-free Environments (Prohibiting Smoking in Motor Vehicles Carrying Children) Amendment Act 2020.
Lealailepule Edward Cowley, Director of Tala Pasifika, a Pacific Action group for change, says "it will help save future generations of Pasifika peoples in Aotearoa, it is a wonderful investment because it’s about our children who are worth everything to us".
Cowley is only too familiar with being trapped in a car with no option to get away from the smoke. As a staunch tobacco control advocate, he shares his story as someone who grew up with parents that smoked. "Having grown up in a household where smoking in our car and home was normal, it was something I learned from people who loved and cared for me. It was no surprise I started smoking in my early teens. These patterns of behaviour need to change, I know first-hand the harms of tobacco use, I’ve lost too many family members to smoking. This will be a step in the right direction for creating a brighter future for Pasifika peoples" Cowley says.
Dr. El-Shadan Tautolo, Associate Professor of Public Health at Auckland University of Technology Director says, "the research is clear, second-hand smoke is linked to so many infant and child health conditions such as lower respiratory tract infections, ear infections, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome.
Tautolo says "This is a major concern for our Pasifika children in Aotearoa who are twice as likely to be exposed to smoke in cars, compared to European New Zealand children. While this evidence is not new to us, it is encouraging that the government is taking steps to address these concerns, and hopefully alleviate some of the associated health burden for our people".
Cowley wants Pacific people who smoke to see the new law as an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and put family first.
"That was then - this is now, it’s great to know we have evolved to recognise that this new law will help our Pasifika communities protect our children from confined spaces where our aiga smoke. Role modelling is key if we are wanting future Pasifika generations to be free from the harms of tobacco use. Knowledge is power - and we know better now, so we should in turn do better," says Cowley.
Making it illegal to smoke or vape around our children in cars is one more step towards taking tobacco out of daily life, says a leading public health agency, Hāpai Te Hauora.
Hāpai Te Hauora Chief Executive Officer Selah Hart says " It is great to finally see this day arrive, it’s the culmination of years of ongoing effort by many. This law will help to tell a new story without smoking and vaping being normalised in everyday life.
Ms. Hart says, "We have a collective responsibility to support our Pasifika aiga and whānau who smoke, Inequitable health and social services exist and lead to poorer outcomes for both Māori and Pacific communities, so everything we do to protect everyone, especially tamāiti / tamariki, is important.
Cowley says, "Smokefree and vape free cars will be the new normal for our children".
"In recent times our children globally have had to adjust quickly to many other new normals, this positive change for Aotearoa New Zealand is one that won’t take long to get used to. "says Cowley.
Five tricks to help you stop smoking in the car
- Throw away the cigarette lighter
- Put a packet of chewing gum in the ashtray
- Turn up the tunes to help you relax
- Agree with the whānau that your car is always Smokefree for everyone
- Display Smokefree/Auahi Kore stickers to show the world that you mean business!