Parents should be better educated about the risks of exposing children to cigarette smoke in cars, according to child health researchers.
Results from a 14-year study have shown children exposed to smoke in cars are more likely to suffer respiratory problems.
In the latest Medical Journal of Australia, Professor Peter Sly and colleagues from the Centre for Child Health Research at the University of Western Australia say the evidence supports a ban on smoking in cars with children.
Data from the parents of 1,427 children shows environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in cars puts children at a higher risk of developing wheeze.
"The 14.6 per cent of children who were exposed at 14 years had increased risk of both current wheeze (wheeze occurring in past 12 months) and persistent wheeze," say the authors.
"Teenagers can escape ETS exposure in the home, either by removing themselves or by their parents smoking outside . . . however, children of this age and younger have no choice but to travel with their parents in the car", say the authors.
The authors believe that the community needs to be educated about the adverse health consequences of ETS exposure in cars.
They also suggest that health care professionals should include such education in counselling sessions for families of children with asthma.
Their conclusion is that smoke-free cars are important for all children.