Aim: To study the attitudes and knowledge of adults in the Wellington area about the effects of passive smoking and measures to reduce exposure to smoke.
Methods: A sample of 200 people, randomly selected in the Wellington area, answered a telephone survey on passive smoking.
Results: Of the 200 respondents, 160 (80%) were males, 40 (20%) were females and approximately one-third (30%) were smokers. Most people (85.5%) thought public and private areas should be smoke-free when there were children around, but only half (53.5%) thought that smoking should be banned in cars when there are passengers. Most people (92.5%) correctly defined passive smoking. Half were aware that passive smoking negatively contributed to all the following diseases (asthma, cancer, heart disease, respiratory problems) and cot death but a higher percentage identified cancer (75.5%) and cot deaths (68.5%) specifically. Most smokers reported that they smoke at home or in their cars rather than in public places. Half the smokers (50.9%) did not smoke in front of children; a further 17.3% reported that they smoked less.
Conclusions: In this sample there was a relatively low level of awareness of the effects of passive smoking on health and a high prevalence of smoking in the presence of children. Smokers and non-smokers were almost equally divided on whether there should be a law restricting smoking in private cars, although the majority agreed that cars carrying children should be smoke-free. Public health efforts to reduce the harm from passive smoking should be focused on discouraging smoking, in settings in which children are exposed, including private cars when children are passengers.