For many smokers, lighting up in the car is a great pleasure. With the window down, the wind in your hair and a cigarette in your hand, driving can be a thrill. And even if you don’t find it fun, smoking a cigarette can at least help pass the time on a long drive.
The problem is, there are all kinds of issues with smoking cigarettes in your vehicle, and maybe vaping could be a better option. To weigh up the pros and cons of replacing a traditional cigarette with a vaporizer, we look at vaping vs smoking in the car.
What’s wrong with smoking in the car?
You might enjoy smoking in the car, but there are quite a few reasons why it’s not such a good idea.
If you have passengers who don’t smoke, it’s going to make their journey much more uncomfortable. They will be breathing in your second-hand smoke – which is known to cause disease and even death – and the smell will stick to their clothes long after the journey is over.
As a smoker, you might think that just rolling down the window will solve the problem, but most non-smokers wouldn’t agree. And if you’re doing it in cold weather with the windows up, they’ll hate you for it.
Then there’s the ash. Winding the window down may alleviate some the of problems of second-hand smoke and odor, but the wind will cause ash to blow around in the car – and in the worst case, might even accidentally burn a hole in somebody’s clothes.
Then there’s the issue of smoking with kids. In many countries, including Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, parts of the US, most of Canada and, probably from later this year, New Zealand, it’s illegal to do so.
However, even in places where it’s legal, it’s morally wrong to do it due to the harm we now know it can cause them.
Then there’s the damage smoking can do to your car. The ash will make it dirty and may even end up causing burn marks, and the odor will permeate the upholstery practically forever. If you want to resell your car, a cigarette smell lowers the price you can expect to receive for it.
So, all in all, smoking in your car is something you probably want to avoid. But are e-cigarettes the answer? Not necessarily. Let’s look at some of the reasons why not.
Many people believe that e-cigarettes are harmless, but this is not quite true. The US Surgeon General has stated that smoking e-cigarettes “isn’t harmless”.
The wording here is very careful and deliberate; the Surgeon General avoided saying that vaping is “harmful” but also doesn’t say that it is “harmless” – and this goes for both smokers and those around them.
The science has not yet caught up with vaping – e-cigarettes have only been around since 2007 – but they are generally regarded as being better than smoking tobacco.
However, this is due to the fact that tobacco smoke is known to cause a whole suite of nasty and often fatal diseases, and pretty much the only thing that experts generally agree on is that e-cigarettes are a better option. But this is a long way from saying they are safe.
This means that anyone in your car with you while you vape is going to be breathing in your second-hand vapor cloud and will suffer from any as yet unknown harmful effects it may be inflicting on them.
Vaping with kids in the car
This is even more true for kids. As we’ve just said, vaping may be harmful to your passengers, but with kids, it’s even worse.
Children have smaller lungs and a higher respiratory rate, and their immune system is not fully developed. This means that whatever damage the e-cigarette “smoke” would do to an adult is only magnified when children are involved.
The best advice is to avoid it – and it is now becoming illegal in more and more places the world over anyway.
An issue that science is only now waking up to is “third-hand” smoke. Usually, we imagine that we ingest things either orally or breathing, but we can also ingest by dermal absorption – that is, through our skin.
Cigarette smoke clings to whatever it touches, and the harmful chemicals in it can then be absorbed through our skin when we touch the surfaces it has infused. This is just as true as with e-cigarettes since the microscopic vapor particles condense wherever they land.
This means that vaping in your car can make the surfaces potentially harmful. The science behind this idea still needs more work, but this could potentially be a problem – especially when children or babies travel in your car, even when you are not vaping.
Another issue is the fact that vaping can impair your vision while you drive. When you smoke an e-cigarette, the cloud it produces is much denser than a cloud of cigarette smoke, and for a few moments, this can significantly impair your vision.
It has recently been reported that in the UK, drivers who vape can now be hit with a fine of up to £2,500 ($3,150), can receive nine points on their license and can even be banned from driving.
While it is not illegal to vape while driving, it is up to the police to decide whether the vaping is distracting the driver or impairing the driver’s vision and causing a danger.
At least in this case, winding down the window can help alleviate the problem a great deal, but anybody considering vaping while they drive should take into account the safety aspects.
Know the risks when making your decision
Some people might automatically conclude that vaping while driving is inherently safe, but there is more to the issue than it might seem. There are several reasons why vaping in cars can be harmful to health or dangerous for road safety and these need to be remembered.
Perhaps the same is true about vaping vs smoking in the car as the general vaping vs smoking argument in general. While vaping in a car isn’t perfect, for all the reasons we have covered, it’s probably still better than smoking. However, if you can, it’s probably best to avoid both.