Were you regularly exposed to second-hand smoke in a car when you were a child?

Were you regularly exposed to second-hand smoke in a car when you were a child? Do you think this might have affected your lung health or exasperated a pre-existing lung condition? Please get in touch with us at press@blf.org.uk and tell us your story. An important debate is coming up in the House of Lords this October which could be crucial in our fight to protect children from second-hand smoke. Your story could help us win this debate so please get in touch. We will not share any of your details without asking for your permission beforehand and will protect your identity if you would like us to.

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30 Replies

  • Personally no, I just wanted to point out that most of the people on this site are 50+ ... me 57 (there are exceptions), my parents who were reasonably well off, got their first car in 1966, ... I was 10, most of those here who are in their 60s or 70s will not have had family cars in their childhoods.... back in those days car ownership was for the privileged few.

    Times change

    Beth .... hope the survey works out well, smoking in a car ...especially with children on board ... should be illegal

  • Hi Stitch, would you mind emailing us on press@blf.org.uk? We'd really like to find out a little bit more about your experiences and we can explain how you might be able to help us in the House of Lords debate. Thank you Melanie at the BLF.

  • Very true Beth. My parents never had a car, Dad had no licence, yet I lived in a chain smoking household and travelled on smoke filled buses. Like Stitch I then smoked in my own car with my children on board and my eldest son now has COPD, albeit at the mild stage.

  • I can remember hating the smell of my parents smoking though they didn't smoke too often in the car.I get upset when my Grandchildren tell me about my ex daughter-in-law smoking in her car, especially as my Grandson who is only 7 has bronchitis. I think it should already be banned,I wouldn't hesitate in reporting her.

  • I remember between age 4-8, my father was a smoker, and took the family to the seaside. I am sure that he smoked in the car. I was a bronchial child, and had whooping cough and measles. I remember inhalations, various cough meds.

    On one occassion, the ash and embers blew in my face. I protested. My father stopped the car and told me to get out and walk home!!!

  • Being a child in the 50's not many people had cars, so no, I wasn't exposed to second-hand smoke in cars when I was a child.

  • We could never afford a car when I was little. Smoking was considered sophisticated in the 50s and not thought of as a problem. So even though I had bronchiectasis from being a baby my dad smoked. I went to school on a smoke filled bus. When I worked you got off the smokey bus (often in winter in thick fog) and straight into the smokey workplace and then went out at night to a smokey venue. I really can't say if things would have been different had I always been in a non smokey environment, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been in hospital so much.

    I never smoked myself and I would be horrified if anyone even thought of it in a car with my granddaughter. Not that I know anyone who smokes apart from one friend who doesn't smoke around me or children.

    Good luck in your fight to protect children from second hand smoke.


  • No, my parents never owned a car. Only the doctor and my friend's dad, who was a baker, owned cars. My friend and his dad were very asthmatic so there was no smoking in his house. However, everyone smoked including my dad so there was much exposure all during childhood. Buses had many smokers forinstance. I often felt sick and would put my jumoer over my mouth. We all had coal fires as well so that may have had an effect! I would definitely want a ban on smoking in cars as you are trappe and the smoke must infiltrate the fabric. Also, no attention seems to be paid to the fact that the ends of cigarettes sometimes spark or drop onto the smoker's lap. This has to be dangerous in itself and what happens to concentration on the road when lighting up or puffing?. My son and elder daughter have company cars and they are not allowed to smoke in them. Good rule! I would also not allow ecigs as we still do not know what rubbish is being puffed into the faces of our little ones. Good luck with getting smoking in cars banned but enforcement might be as tricky as phones! :-) :-) Alison

  • As others have said, not many people had cars in the 50s and 60s but smoking was probably "the norm" because no-one knew the dangers. My husband's GP even told him to carry on smoking because it would help keep his tubes open and so help his asthmatic breathing! I don't envy you trying to compare the stats of today with those in the 50s and 60s as presumably you will have to exclude the effects of smoking everywhere other than cars from those in the 50s/60s and also the effects of other factors such as asbestos in all public buildings, asbestos in all car break pads, pollution from leaded petrol. You have a hard job ahead and I wish you every success. Our children need protection.

  • I agree with the rest...we didn't have a car until 1958, and that was old and well ventilated..had to open the window to indicate and to slow down(please pass!)

    There was petrol rationing and no material to build cars after the war. I think it was the 1960s before there were more cars and hire purchase was available.

  • My Dad always smoked; from age 18 months to 9 yrs we lived in a little rural pub - Mum used to open our bedroom windows to let the smoke out in the evenings! Although we moved out of there, Dad still smoked, as did my husband, until about 16 years ago. My Dad had COPD, even tried to smoke when on oxygen (some kind friend smuggled them in to him). I think if I don't go down with COPD it will be a minor miracle, although I've never smoked myself I seem to have lived in a haze of ciggie smoke all my life !


  • I was surprised to read you can still smoke in cars,with kids,in the UK.Thats been banned here for a long time,as has no smoking on bus or trains,pubs& restaurants,coffe shops,malls etc.They said it would never work,but lo & behold it did!!

    Many people said they gave up the smokes,as they are so socially unacceptable, & were running out of places where they could indulge!!

    Love Wendells xxx

  • quite jealous of this Wendells. Smoking is alowed outside cafes & pubs here so we can no longer eat out al fresco. A real shame. As for walking past Starbucks on the way to the Doctors? Even the GPs run past holding their breath.

  • Thank you all so much for sharing your stories they are very interesting and insightful. I'll be messaging some of you in the next few days as there are stories that could really be useful when formulating arguments for a ban in the House of Lords.

  • I am pretty sure that Pete would have been exposed to smoke when he was a child because both his parents smoked. His father died at 64 from emphasema and his mother is still alive at 81 but has not smoked in years. Pete started smoking at 15 and gave up 22 years ago. I think his sarcoidosis was caused by something else though as he worked for a cargo airline at Heathrow for many years inside the belly of an aircraft with no mask or anything to protect him breathing in god knows what. No health and safety much in those days! Good luck with the debate. Children should never be subjected to second hand smoke anywhere, but they are. Needs to be stopped.

  • I was exposed from birth in a smokers household,mum stepdad brothers visitors etc,went work at 15 in cotton mills ,buses 730 am morning full smokers 5pm home full smokers,ad whooping cough measles meninjitus phenomia all under 16yrs old ad those illnesses started smoking at 20 but stopped an started over the years never more rhan 10 a week.i no my copd is not with heavy smoking,stopped 2010 ,then oct 2010 eldest brother took illwith mesothelmiala asked me look after him for 7month till he died stupid me with the stress and running round at all hours started smoking again stopped for good last year ,can only slow it down so that's wat im trying to do,im 63 moderate copd,

  • ps mum died at 69 with copd stepdad died at 64 with copd an phenoimia,was only told that last year by my eldest aunt,now my sister at 56 as copd moderate,

  • Yes, I was ! , my old dad smoked like a chimney whilst driving, , however the problem with this "Problem" , is HOW ON EARTH IS THIS TO BE " POLICED" ? can we imagine POLICE CARS siding up to speeding vehicles, especially on a Motorway ), and having a peep to see who is smoking, - the results could be more dangerous than the very ( possible) " Crime " they are trying to stop - usually known as a " CIRCULAR PROBLEM " in Police terms ! Hmm - tricky !! ..

  • Well it's banned over here,to smoke whilst in a car with children,& it seems to be working!! xx

  • I was diagnosed in mid 2010 with Boullus Emphysema, I'm 44 and didn't start smoking until I was 17, I smoked about 10-15 cigs a day stopped Feb 2011.

    When I grew up I hated the smell of smoke I could not even go near an ashtray. Both my parents smoked even my older brother smoked, they smoked every where car house ect, back in the 80's it was the done thing, all adverts glamorized it, even TV shows condoled it, does anyone remember Miami Vice.

    I remember growing up with calour gas fires to heat the house, at one stage going way back I remember the house having a paraffin heater (oh i still remember the smell), no windows open either.

    I can't remember hearing anyone saying smoking was bad for you back in my day, education awareness should have been everything.

    We as a community are all well educated on everything now, when I take my kids to school I see school kids smoking to and from school, at school now kids are being educated on debt-banking saving money ect, why not catch this umbrella COPD early and take it to the schools.

    My doctor asked me if I had smoked marijuana as my condition is consistent with historical marijuana smoking, I have never taken any form of drugs apart from menthol cigs and now and again headache tablets, my doctor said my lungs must be just damaged by cig smoke.

    My dad had Emphysema, my uncle has Emphysema. I think this disease is only coming to light now. I have spoken to a few of my friends who smoke and know nothing about Emphysema-COPD, all they know about is cancer.

    I still see kids in cars with people smoking in them. I can't even walk into a shopping center-hospital ect without getting smoke blown in my face.

    If only we knew now what we didn't know then.

    David 1968

  • Yes I was also, we were one of the first families in our road to buy a new car, an Austin

    A 40, in 1963. My dad always smoked in the car and my mother very rarely, a few puffs and put it out and then smoke the rest later. It never bothered me and I became a smoker at 13/14 but not through my parents, it was my friends in the scouts.

    BUT thinking about chest, lungs etc. I was exposed to London smog as a child which

    unless experienced you would believe I was making it up. It was a thick, viscous, yellow and black dense freezing cloud. It reduced visibility to literally feet. I remember breathing if I through my scarf and no doubt balaclava, and it was so cold in be lungs.

    If you had a cold you would cough up phlegm with jet black streaks which were soot


    My mother was a stickler for our school attendance, whether It was thick snow, freezing ice but the smog

    frightened her, and she's a tough lady and still going.

    And also on reflection, I was one of the few kids who had a bathroom indoors in our three bedroom house as a child. The only problem was that it was in my bedroom, along with an Ascot boiler, it was

    quite a big room, but looking back to 1960-65 it now seems quite a big health risk.

    At the time it seemed normal, strange how time changes perspectives. Adrian

  • Like vittorio, I do not see how it can be policed and sorry but think such a law goes too far - what about the pollution from car exhaust pipes and the pollution they cause for children being about push chair height, I did not get emphysema from my parents smoking in the car when I was a child - I got it probably from smoking heavily myself for over 40 years.

  • Yes.

    My stepfather was always puffing at a stinky pipe.

    I had (undiagnosed) asthma to the age of about 7 when it seemed to quieten down thereafter I was just puffed out running, sports & hills.

    To this day I cannot bear the smell of pipes, tobacco or cigars.

    Was diagnosed with asthma 2004. peeg

  • I got Emphysema from smoking, not from my parents-friends nor from anything else, I do believe we have to do something drastic about cigarettes.

    David 1968

  • This post is probably out of date now but both my parents smoked and my sister and I were exposed from birth as many posters were. In 1966 ( I was 11) my mother had a car which I think was called a Wolsey or something similar sounding. She smoked always. My grandmother smoked, every adult around us smoked. My father was in the Navy and was given free non tipped woodbine and RN cigarettes as a perk of the job. My grandmother would take us to bingo with her and our eyes were always streaming , you couldn't see through the haze of smoke. Unfortunately my father died in 1968 when I was thirteen . Two years ago at the age of 56 I started to develop shortness of breath which over the next two years progressed along with other disabling symptoms and after insisting to my GP to investigate with blood tests and chest x ray, I received a phone call and a referral the next the next day to the respiratory team.. In the space of 8 weeks I have had a CT scan, bronchoscopy and an emergency admission for 9 days. I now now that I have a condition known as BRONCHIECTASIS like many posters here and i'm a non smoker. Holly.

  • Yep, I agree with alot that has been said regarding smoking in cars, BUT, how on earth is this to be policed ?? - thousands still use mobile phones whilst driving, despite the fine being raised , now we learn that many drivers are high on drugs at the wheel - there seems no end to it, if the police stop every driver suspected of either taking drugs or smoking with kids in the car, I can envisaged massive hold ups ...........in trying to resolve one problem, they might create another one !! ......such is life !

  • "ANYTHING" an adult habitually does around a child is naturally seen by that child and considered 'normal' and/or 'good' so the behaviour is usually imitated and practiced regularly most of the time. Smoking cigarettes is one such behaviour and that is only common sense. Why it needs to be explained further to these dingbat politicians is beyond me. Of course the smoke inhaled when young creates not only an effect on the child's lungs but, also, a memory associated with the smell of the smoke.

  • I was regularly exposed to cigarette smoke, and some pipe tobacco. I just think I was addicted to nicotine indirectly from that second hand smoke. I was athletic at school and had no breathing difficulties, but, who knows, it may have exacerbated a pre-existing condition or affected my lung health....I will never know. I just know that I wish I had never smoked, and I hope my children forgive me for exposing them, even though we were all freezing with the car windows open!


  • My family smoked at home and in the car, so did I until I stopped this year.

  • None of my three adult children or six adult grandchildren smoke in the car or around their children.

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