Smokefree Cars Promotion

South Canterbury
Legislation & Regulation
Public Support
Second-hand smoke
Smokefree cars
Karen Semmens
Health Promotion Advisor
Leola Ryder
Health Promotion Advisor, Community and Public Health
03 687 2610


The Smokefree South Canterbury Committee (the committee) developed and ran the project. Members of the committee include Community & Public Health, Cancer Society, Heart Foundation, Fale Pasifika, South Canterbury District Health Board and Plunket.

Project fit with 2025 Aims

Public support - The project raises awareness and increases the understanding of the dangers of second-hand smoke and the 2025 goal.

Project Purpose

To demonstrate the dangers of smoking in cars with children and young people, and collect public views on smokefree car legislation to protect children and young people.


The general public of South Canterbury over the age of 17.

What Happened

To launch the project a photo of two children seated in a car wearing gas masks with smoke (dry-ice machine) billowing inside was sent to local media and featured in the Timaru herald on Saturday the 4th May.

During the month of May 2013 the committee visited 4 sites in South Canterbury (1 site per week), creating a visual display and surveying the community about smokefree cars.  The Warehouse Timaru, Pak n Save Timaru, Temuka New World and Waimate New World were chosen because they are high foot traffic areas and are situated in low socio-economic communities.

To create the visual display the committee sourced a car and dry-ice machine from the local Fire Service. The car had two car-seats with teddies strapped in and the dry-ice machine was turned on to simulate smoke from a cigarette. The car was also plastered with Smokefree 2025, general smoking and second-hand smoke information. 

The survey involved members of the public being asked to partake in a very quick verbal survey around smoking in cars with children. All those who participated were given smokefree resources, including lipbalm, key ring and smokefree car sticker*. Survey forms were also delivered to all Early Childhood Centre’s within Timaru, Waimate and Temuka at the start of May, and collected at the end of May. 410 parents filled in the survey which were strategically placed next to the sign in book at each centre. All survey participants were entered into a draw to win one of five $100 grocery vouchers.

Some comments made during the surveys were a real concern, and were utilised in the media to highlight the dangers of smoking around children in a confined space. One respondent indicated “I just roll down the windows when I smoke, that’s plenty of ventilation for the kids”.  

*Community & Public Health Timaru developed smokefree home and car stickers which were offered to those people participating in surveys and also left for parents to collect at Early Childhood Centre’s. These pictures on these stickers were based on the smokefree parks and playground signage developed for local use.

Key Outcomes

There were 946 responses to the survey (verbal and ECE): 

  • 908 supported a law change whereby you could not smoke in a car carrying children. Some comments from people indicated they supported it in principle, but did not want another law to ‘tell us what to do’.
  • 144 smokers were were offered quit advice.
  • 39 people were followed up with quit support from a quit coach.

The number of people given quit advice and support was a really positive result as the question around quitting was secondary to our promotion. It showed how important it is to ask the question.

Although the purpose was learn about public perceptions it proved a fantastic opportunity to raise public awareness of the Smokefree 2025 goal and to raise Smokefree cars as an issue within the media.  

What worked

  • The photo taken of the kids was a definite talking point with people, representing second-hand smoke exposure in a very emotive way.
  • Setting up a photo shoot and inviting the media to take their own photos was great. They appreciated that all of the work had been done.
  • Fantastic media coverage, with 7 local media articles attributed to Smokefree cars.
  • Keeping the survey short and simple, including having a committee member read the questions, kept it easy and fast for the public to participate. 
  • Offering grocery vouchers as an incentive to filling out the questionnaire. A total of five vouchers were offered, each with a value of $100.
  • Developing smokefree car stickers with the same graphics that feature on the community’s smokefree playground signage (developed by Community & Public Health Timaru).
  • Offering each respondent a lipbalm and keyring, and asking them to take action straight away by putting a smokefree car sticker on their car.
  • Choosing locations that were situated in highly-populated areas and busy.
  • Asking the question “Are you a smoker?” and “Would you be interested in quit smoking support?” proved worthwhile as we offered 144 people brief advice and had 39 people to follow up with quit support. Quit coaches helped conduct the surveys and were on hand to discuss quitting with those that wished to.

What could be done differently

I’m unsure what we would have done differently as the committee feels this campaign was a success and met our objectives.

Other activities/ ideas

  • To repeat this survey again to gather local data around support for a law change whereby you cannot smoke in a car with children. 
  • A visit to local MP’s, newly elected councillors and Mayors after this years election could include a survey to gauge their support.
  • Provide key smokefree car and home messages, along with smokefree stickers, to plunket so nurses can distribute them to parents. Encourage the Plunket Car-seat Co-coordinator to provide smokefree resources with every car-seat hired, and ensure the seat remains in a smokefree car as a condition of use.
  • The promotion could be extended in partnership with maternity wards and Māori providers.
  • Distribute a postcard with an image of the kids in the smoky car to the public for them to sign and show their support for smokefree cars by sending them back to Parliament or their local MP.
Page last updated: 31 Mar 2016