Tobacco use and asking prices of used cars: prevalence, costs, and new opportunities for changing smoking behavior

Tob Induc Dis. 2008 Jul 31;4(1):2. doi: 10.1186/1617-9625-4-2.


Secondhand smoke (SHS) causes premature death and disease in children and adults, and the scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to SHS. Smoking tobacco in a car can pollute the microenvironment of the car with residual SHS, leaving telltale signs to potential buyers (e.g., odor, used ash tray). This study examined (a) the proportion of used cars sold in the private party market that may be polluted with tobacco smoke and (b) whether asking prices of smoker and nonsmoker cars differed for cars of otherwise equivalent value. A random sample of 1,642 private party sellers were interviewed by telephone, and content analyses of print advertisements were conducted. Findings indicate that 22% of used cars were advertised by smokers or had been smoked in during the previous year. Among nonsmokers, 94% did not allow smoking in their car during the past year. Only 33% of smokers had the same restrictions. The smoking status of the seller and tobacco use in the car were significantly (p < .01) associated with the asking price independent of a car's Kelley Blue Book value (KBB). Used nonsmoker cars were offered at a considerable premium above their KBB value (>11%) and above comparable smoker cars (7-9%). These findings suggest that community preferences are affecting the value of smoke-free cars. New directions for research, tobacco control policies, and health education are discussed to further reduce smoking behavior, to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions, and to protect nonsmokers from SHS exposure.