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What's Bugging You? Cigarette smokers in traffic

September 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
So maybe you don't smoke, but the driver ahead of you sticks his cigarette out the window and blows all that smoke into your car.

"What's bugging me is sometimes when I'm sitting in my car, suddenly I'll start smelling a lot of smoke, and then I'll look around and see, oh, somebody's smoking a cigarette and hanging their cigarette out the side of their car, and so I'm breathing their smoke," said Rancho Palos Verdes resident John Edwards.

John Edwards sent Eyewitness News an email because he believes it's a health risk.

It's called "side-stream smoke"

"Side-stream is when smoke comes from the cigarette itself, while the mainstream is made when the smoker exhales the cigarette. Both of them are bad," said Dr. Reza Nahed, a pulmonologist at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center.

OK, so you're probably thinking in Southern California the exhaust fumes from cars have to be worse than cigarette smoke. Guess again.

According to the British Medical Association, in a car, "particle concentrations are 27 times higher than in a smoker's home. It would be safer to have your exhaust pipe on the inside of your car than smoke cigarettes."

"It's not a good idea to be exposed to secondhand smoking, on the road or in the home situation, which is very bad for the children," said Nahed.

There are laws against smoking in a car with children. But there is no law against smoking and blowing the smoke out the window.

Some feel a ban on smoking while driving intrudes on people's rights and may be unenforceable.

As a driver, Edwards says he has rights too.

"I don't want to smoke. I want to be healthy. Most people in L.A. like to be healthy, and so having to smell that and breathe it is something I don't want to do," said Edwards.

Sometimes you can't get out of the way. You're stuck behind a driver who is smoking. In that case doctors say try to keep that smoke from getting inside your car.

"The windows should be up and you have to have the air conditioner on, and try to avoid it as much as possible," said Nahed.

Smokers certainly have rights. But if you smoke, think about who is around you and think about the effects the smoke is having on them.


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