15.6 Smoking bans in domestic environments

15.6.1 Prevalence of exposure to secondhand smoke in domestic environments

Exposure of children to tobacco smoke in domestic environments, especially homes and cars, is a particular concern given the health risks of secondhand smoke (SHS) for children (see Chapter 4, Section 4.9) and the long hours that most children spend each day in these environments. National data on smoking at home

Data from National Drug Strategy Household Surveys found that only 8% of households with dependent children had at least one person who smoked inside the home in 2007, a decrease from almost one-third in 1995. Consistent with this trend has been an increase in the proportion of households where someone smoked only outside the home (from 17% to 29%).1 i However exposure to SHS remains high particularly for children in low socio-economic status (SES) households. In 2007, children in households in the most disadvantaged areas in Australia were more than three times as likely to be exposed to tobacco smoke in the home as those living in the most advantaged areas (14% compared with 4%). They were also twice as likely to have a regular smoker at home (who smokes outside) than households with children in the highest SES areas (38% compared with 17%).1

Nationally in 2008, 63% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years lived in a household with members who were daily smokers (72% in remote and 61% in non-remote areas). While there was little change since 2004–05 in the proportion of children living in households with smokers, more children in 2004–05 were living in households where people smoked outside.2 The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years living in a household where members usually smoked inside the house decreased from 29% in 2004–05 to 21% in 2008. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are still about three times more likely to be exposed to tobacco smoke in the home than other Australian children (21% compared with 7%)2, consistent with higher rates of adult smoking. State data on smoking at home

In New South Wales in 2008 just under 9 out of 10 adults (90%) lived in smokefree homes, an increase since 1997 (70%). About 5% (5.7%) lived in homes where people occasionally smoked, and a further 5% lived in homes where people frequently smoked. Adults in the fifth or most disadvantaged quintile were less likely to live in a smokefree home (83.8%), compared with the overall adult population or more advantaged groups. There was no significant difference between rural and urban areas.3

In South Australia in 2008, 86% of the population lived in a smokefree home (a home that has either a ban or where no one at home is a smoker).4

The proportion of Victorian smokers who usually smoked outdoors increased steadily between 1998 and 2008 with a corresponding decline in those who smoked indoors.5

Table 15.6.1
Proportion of Victorian smokers who smoke inside or outside the home, 1998–2008



Always or usually outside (%)

outside (%)

Always or
usually inside (%)

Don't smoke at all
/ Don't know/
Can't say (%)



































































Note: Data are weighted by sex and age according to ABS 2006 Census data. Due to rounding, percentages may not total 100.

Base: Victorian adults from smoking households (n=1256)

Source: Abbott 20095

15.6.2 Factors affecting adoption of smokefree homes Policies

Increasing prevalence of smokefree public places and workplaces has been associated in English-speaking countries with increasing numbers of smokefree homes.6,7 A Cochrane Collaboration review of the evidence, however, concluded that there is little evidence of such a trend internationally.8 Contrary to anecdotes promoted by the hospitality sector that smoking bans in pubs and clubs would lead to more children being exposed to smoking at home, an Irish study found that 1 in 5 smokers were smoking less at home since the introduction of the comprehensive smoking ban in that country in 2004.9 Education campaigns

Education campaigns about smoking at home have become a regular part of tobacco control programs. Common themes include raising awareness of the health effects of SHS on children and encouraging parents to either quit or smoke outside for the health and safety of their children.10 These campaigns have been moderately helpful in increasing the number of people who make their homes smokefree.11–13 While there have been some successful interventions,14 evidence about the effectiveness of programs and efforts by health professionals to encourage parents of children admitted to medical facilities to adopt smokefree homes is somewhat equivocal.15 An alternative approach is to encourage pre-teen and young teenage children to remove themselves temporarily from environments where adults are smoking.16

15.6.3 Benefits of smokefree homes

Higher prevalence of household smoking has been linked with a significantly higher level of asthma at a population level.17

Adoption of smokefree policies at home appears to promote anti-smoking attitudes among youths, and reduce progression to smoking experimentation among youths who live with non-smokers.18 The policies appear to reduce consumption of tobacco products19,20 and increase the success of quitting among adult smokers20–22 and reduce relapse.22 In its systematic review of all the relevant studies published on this topic to date, the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that the evidence from such studies was strong with regard to youth smoking and sufficient for reductions in adult smoking.7,23

15.6.4 Cars Rationale for restricting smoking in cars

Australians spend a considerable amount of time in their cars. In 1992, the latest year that data is available, Australians using cars did so for an average of 1 hour 27 minutes per day.24 People aged 35–54 spent the most time per day using cars: 1 hour 36 minutes per day on average. The longer time spent in cars by this age demographic is associated with their greater transport-related commitments, such as work and family. At these ages, many people may have children who need to be driven to and from childcare, school, and social and sporting activities.24

The indoor environment of the family car has been a source of significant SHS exposure for the most vulnerable members of society: children.25–27 A 2001 study of infant cotinine levels—an indicator of SHS exposure—in the Hunter Region New South Wales found that almost half of infants in the study had cotinine in their urine.28 The researchers concluded that additional policy and education interventions were needed to protect infants from SHS, including a ban on smoking in cars when children are present. A 2006 New Zealand study measured the levels of fine particulates in a car while in the presence of a smoker.26 The researchers found that the air quality in the car with the window partially or wholly down was similar to that found in a typical smoky pub, whereas when smoking occurred with the window closed it was at least twice as bad as even the smokiest pub. The low air change rates of motor vehicles—designed to shelter occupants from air pollutants entering from outside a vehicle—also work to concentrate pollution from any sources inside the passenger compartment. In a study of 100 air change rate measurements on four motor vehicles under moving and stationary conditions, researchers found that the 24-hour average personal exposure to particulate matter (PM) could exceed 35 mcg/m(-3) for just two cigarettes smoked inside the vehicle.29 Another study investigated the effects of smoking a single cigarette under moderate ventilation conditions (air conditioning or having the smoking driver hold the cigarette next to a half-open window). Researchers found that the average levels of PM(2.5) were reduced but still at significantly high levels (air conditioning = 844 mcg/m(3); holding cigarette next to a half-open window = 223 mcg/m(3)), demonstrating that tobacco smoke pollution in cars reaches unhealthy levels, even under realistic ventilation conditions.30 Other studies have demonstrated similarly high levels of exposure after the smoking of just a single cigarette.31

Research in 2007 among a Perth-based birth cohort of 14-year-old adolescents confirms the exceptional consequences of SHS exposure in the family vehicle. The study found that children exposed to SHS in the family vehicle were more likely to develop a persistent wheeze than those exposed to SHS in the home only.32

Exposure to SHS may not be the only risk for children and others in cars where someone is smoking. Drivers who smoke also appear to be more prone to having a motor vehicle accident (see Chapter 3, Section 3.19.1).

A study published in 2008 showed an increase in symptoms of nicotine dependence in children who had never smoked but who were exposed to tobacco smoke in cars.33 If such findings were replicated they would raise further concerns about the dangers of early exposure.

Until recently private cars have been regarded as the domain of the domestic environment, and therefore beyond the reach of regulation.34 Public acceptance of smokefree policies in the hospitality industry, concern about the health and rights of children as well as increasing regulation of the behaviour of motorists—including prohibition of the use of mobile phones—appear to have been some of the factors that have made the public and governments more amenable to the idea of prohibiting smoking where children are present in cars.6,3540

In October 1995, a world-first study was published that measured support for regulation of smoking in cars carrying children.41 A total of 1461 New South Wales adult residents were asked, 'Do you think it should be illegal to smoke in cars when travelling with children?'. A substantial majority of respondents agreed (72%), 27% disagreed and 1% were undecided. The majority of smokers (63%), also agreed with a ban.ii 42

In November 1995, a working party on the effects of passive smoking of the National Health Advisory Committee released a draft report, The Health Effects of Passive Smoking. In addition to including an extensive review of the scientific evidence that exposure to SHS is harmful, the report also contained several policy recommendations to reduce exposure to SHS. The working party recommended that the 'legal prohibition of smoking in private motor vehicles during periods when minors are passengers should be considered by State and Territory governments' (p214).43

Results from a large-scale population health survey in New South Wales reveal that by 2008, the vast majority of adults (88.2%) reported that smoking was not allowed in their car, a significant increase over levels in 2003 (81.2%). A significantly lower proportion of people in the lowest socio-economic group (84.8%) and young adults aged 16–24 years (82.1%) reported smoking was not allowed in their car compared with the overall adult population. Legislation banning smoking in cars

In June 2006, more than a decade after the issue of smoking in cars was first discussed in Australia, the Tasmanian Government released a discussion paper that included a proposal to ban smoking in cars carrying children.44 In March 2007 legislation banning smoking in cars carrying children under 18 was announced.45 A Bill to amend s.67H(2) of the Public Health Act 1997 (Tas.) was passed and came into force on 19 December 2007.iii

In February 2006, the South Australian Democrats proposed legislation to ban smoking in cars carrying children aged under 12,46 softening their previous position from a total smoking ban in cars. In August 2006 the South Australian Government announced plans to ban smoking in cars carrying children under the age of 16 with penalties of up to $200 applying. The Bill was passed in March 2007 and implemented on 31 May 2007, World No Tobacco Day, making South Australia the first state in Australia to ban smoking in cars with children. The first reports of fines appeared in July 2007.47

In November 2006, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Commonwealth Minister for Health and Ageing issued a media release urging the states and territories to enact legislation banning smoking in cars.48 The possibility of national coordinated action for a ban was raised, but failed to be adopted at the December 2006 meeting of the Ministerial Council Drug Strategy.iv

In New South Wales smoking in cars when children are present was banned under the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2008 (NSW) from July 2009.

In 2009 the Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act 2009 was introduced into Western Australia's State Parliament by Dr Janet Woollard as a Private Member's Bill. The new law was passed and smoking in cars when children under the age of 17 years are present was banned in Western Australia from 22 September 2009.

By January 2011 six jurisdictions (all except the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory) had introduced legislation to prohibit smoking in cars when children are present. The Australian Capital Territory Government has expressed concern about the issue and released a discussion paper in 2009.49 Restrictions on smoking in cars in countries outside Australia

Canada is another country that has been at the forefront of efforts to protect children from exposure to tobacco in cars, with all but two provinces having legislation in place as at April 2011. At least four US states—Arkansas, California, Louisiana and Maine and also Puerto Rico—have banned smoking in cars when children are present, and many more have drafted legislation or are considering it.50 Similar restrictions apply in Cyprus, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, and many other countries are now moving towards bans.

Table 15.6.2
Summary of legislation concerning smoking in cars with minors—as at March 2011


Applicable age

Date law in force

Date law adopted

Canadian provinces/territories


Nova Scotia


1 April 2008

13 Dec. 2007


Yukon Territory


15 May 2008

22 Apr. 2008


British Columbia


date to be set

29 May 2008




21 Jan 2009

18 June 2008




15 July 2010



Prince Edward Island


15 Sept 2009



New Brunswick


1 Jan 2010





1 Oct 2010





31 May 2011

13 Dec 2010





13 Dec 2010


Alberta and Quebec are now the only two provinces in the country without such a law.51

Canadian municipalities


Wolfville, Nova Scotia


1 June 2008

19 Nov 2007


Surrey, British Columbia


31 July 2008

14 July 2008


Okotoks, Alberta


1 Sept 2008

15 July 2008


Atabasca, Alberta


Mar 2011



Leduc, Alberta


2 July 2011


US states




30 Mar 2011

amended prior law




1 Jan 2008

10 Oct 2007




15 Aug 2006

5 July 2006




1 Sept 2008

10 Apr 2008


Puerto Rico
(US Commonwealth in Caribbean)


2 Mar 2007

2 Mar 2006


Many states also ban smoking in cars when foster children are present.50

US municipalities


Bangor, Maine


18 Jan 2007

8 Jan 2007


Keyport, New Jersey


26 Apr 2007

24 Apr 2007


Rockland County, N.Y.


21 June 2007

15 June 2007


West Long Branch Borough, NJ


9 June 2007

6 June 2007

Australian states and territoriesii


South Australia


31 May 2007

5 Apr. 2007




1 Jan 2008

19 Dec 2008


New South Wales


1 July 2009

20 Nov 2008




1 Jan 2010

18 Aug 2009


Western Australia


23 Sept 2010

22 Sept 2009




1 Jan 2010

29 Oct 2009



Bahrain (private cars with accompanying children)


13 April 2009





since 2004



South Africa


Sept 2009

23 Feb 2008


Mauritius (while carrying passengers)


since 2008



United Arab Emirates


Jan 2010


Source: Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy50

i Louisiana Revised Statue 32:295 sets out various rules for car seat and seat belt use that apply to all child passengers up to and including age 12. See: http://www.legis.state.la.us/lss/lss.asp?doc=88231.

ii For the Australian Capital Territory, see Media Release, Jon Stanhope, Chief Minister, 6 June, 2007: http://www.chiefminister.act.gov.au/media.asp?media=2614&section=53&title=Media%20Release&id=53.
For Queensland, see Queensland Government Joint Statement, Premier - The Honourable Anna Bligh, Minister for Health - The Honourable Stephen Robertson, 'Bligh Government toughens anti-smoking legislation' 26 May, 2008; see also 'Bligh bans smoking in cars with kids', The Daily Telegraph, May 26, 2008: http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,23759038-5001028,00.html?from=public_rss.
For Victoria, see 'MP introduces bill to ban youth smoking', ABC News, June 12, 2008: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/06/12/2272190.htm. To see Tobacco (Control of Tobacco Effects on Minors) Bill 2007 (see s. 4), visit: http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/ . This bill was adopted by the Legislative Council on 25 June, 2008, followed by the Legislative Assembly returning the bill back to the Legislative Council with a message that the bill seeks an appropriation from the Consolidated Fund.

15.6.5 Multi-unit dwellings

'Neighbour smoke' is a relatively new concept in tobacco control.52 Several published studies now have documented significant transfer of SHS between dwellings in multi-unit apartment complexes.53 Children in apartments have been found to have higher mean cotinine levels than children in detached houses.54 Air sealing and modifications to ventilation can reduce, but not completely eliminate, smoke drift from apartments where residents smoke indoors.55

While smoking is banned in enclosed common or shared areas of multi-unit housing in several states and territories, private living areas are generally exempted. In 2011 the owners of a block of apartments in Ashfield, Sydney agreed to a by-law banning smoking anywhere within the building and on balconies, making the building the first multi-unit dwelling in Australia to become 100% smokefree.

In the 2010 case of Norbury v. Hogan 2010 QCAT 296 the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal found in favour of a smoker who had been ordered to take reasonable steps to ensure her smoking did not cause a nuisance to her neighbour by an adjudicator under the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 (Qld). The tribunal considered the law of nuisance in the context of smoke drift in residential units and held that the relevant question to ask is whether the smoke is of a sufficient character or quantity as to unreasonably interfere with a neighbour's use and enjoyment of their premises, based on an objective test rather than on the sensitivities of a particular individual.

In 2006 the New South Wales Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal upheld a case brought by occupants of an apartment against their smoking neighbours, requiring them to stop smoking in their adjacent apartment because of smoke drift.56 This case could precipitate other such actions and give license to rental managers to advise tenants that smoking is banned in rental apartments.

A Canadian survey found that 46% of apartment dwellers had experienced smoke from a neighbour seeping into their apartment and 64% would prefer to live in an entirely smokefree complex.57 It seems that apartment owners may gradually be starting to respond to this demand. A study of landlords who had implemented smokefree policies in apartment buildings in Douglas County Nebraska found that expected adverse consequences generally did not occur.58 In a survey published in 2010, the majority of apartment owners in New York expressed interest in introducing smokefree policies.59 A campaign educating housing providers in Portland Oregon resulted in a 29% increase in smokefree apartments becoming available in that city.60 At least 36 public housing authorities in the US have banned smoking within private apartments.61 Commentators in the US have called for a national ban on smoking in public housing62 and the US federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has urged all state public housing authorities to make public housing developments smokefree.63

15.6.6 Domiciliary services

Community nurses and other health and welfare workers may be repeatedly exposed to SHS while dealing with clients living in their own home or in community supported accommodation outside institutions.64 This is an occupational health and safety issue for these workers, and some institutions in the UK and Australia insist as a matter of policy that clients do not smoke in their presence. The Aged and Community Services Association of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory for instance advises agencies that all clients should be advised not to smoke in the presence of workers.65

Recent news and research

For recent news items and research on this topic, click here (Last updated February 2017)    

i See Table 23.1: Smoking status of households with children aged 0–14 years, 1995–2007 (per cent) in Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. A picture of Australia's children 2009. AIHW cat. no. PHE 112. Canberra: AIHW, 2009.

ii This section on smoking in cars is extracted from Freeman B, Chapman S and Storey P. Banning smoking in cars carrying children: an analytical history of a public health advocacy campaign.42

iii See s.4 Public Health Amendment Act 2007 (Tas.) http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/tas/consol_act/pha1997126/


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2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4704.0 The health and welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, 2010 Canberra, Australia: ABS, 2010 viewed September 2010. Available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/ProductsbyCatalogue/366EED9FF642DD67CA2570B3007DEA93?OpenDocument

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45. Paine M. Car cigs ban on way Raft of smoking rules clear Cabinet. Hobart Mercury, 2007:2 March.

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