Secondhand Smoke Exposure in Cars

Children and Adult Passengers Are at Risk

Smokefree Cars, Healthy Kids

Exposing passengers, both children and adults, to secondhand smoke in the confined space of a car is extremely hazardous. Everyone should be encouraged not to smoke in vehicles. This exposure is hazardous to anyone’s health, but in particular to children whose smaller bodies proportionally take in a larger volume of air.

When someone smokes in the small enclosed space of a car or other vehicle, people breathe toxic air at levels many times higher than what the EPA considers hazardous, even when a window is down. Additionally, the gases and particulates of tobacco smoke absorb into the upholstery and other surfaces inside a car—which is called thirdhand smoke—and it then re-emits back into the air over time, which exposes passengers to toxins long after anyone actually smoked in the car.

As awareness increases that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and that people are regularly exposed in vehicles, some policymakers have decided to take action to reduce exposure in cars with children and in work vehicles.

Because a law, by itself, is unlikely to eliminate secondhand smoke exposure in cars, ANR Foundation recommends that any smokefree car campaign be accompanied by a strong education effort, stressing the health hazards of smoke-filled vehicles. Campaigns for smokefree car laws can serve as a tool to educate the public about the health hazards of secondhand smoke exposure and improve decision making about smoking in ways that harm other people.

For more information, please read Kids, Cars, and Cigarettes: A Policy Overview, from the Public Health Law Center.

U.S. Smokefree Car Laws

In the following states, smoking is prohibited in vehicles transporting children under the age listed below.


Persons < age 14 (Effective 07/27/2011)


Persons < age 18 (Effective 01/01/2008)


Persons < age 18 (Effective 6/1/2020)


Persons < age 13 (Effective 08/15/2006)


Persons < age 16 (Effective 09/01/2008)


Persons < age 18 (Effective 01/01/2014)

Puerto Rico

Persons < age 18 (Effective 08/09/2017)


Persons < age 16 (Effective 07/01/2014)


Persons < age 9 (Effective 07/01/2014)


Persons < age 8 (Effective 07/01/2016)

For more information, please see U.S. Prohibitions On Smoking In Cars With Children from the Public Health Law Center.