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Thousands of parents need support with new smokefree law

NEW Smokefree laws which have just come into effect may not be sufficient to protect children as new research finds getting behind the wheel is a common smoking trigger for Kiwi parents.

The Smoke-free Environments (Prohibiting Smoking in Motor Vehicles Carrying Children) Amendment Act came into force on Sunday.

The Act prohibits smoking and vaping in motor vehicles carrying children and young people under 18-years-of-age.

A nationwide Shosha study of 3700 past and current smokers has found that driving is the most common pattern trigger for nearly a tenth (8 percent) of New Zealand smokers.

Addictions specialist Leanne French says a pattern trigger is an activity that connects smokers with an everyday activity which leads to them craving a cigarette.

She says driving with children can be a stressful situation and the study shows that stress is the most common emotional trigger for the majority (59 percent) of smokers.

Over time smokers learn to connect smoking with most of the daily events in their lives and then believe that smoking can help them cope with stressful situations.

“Triggers are made up of the people, places, things and situations that set off an urge to smoke.

“Driving has been proven to elevate people's blood pressure, so when you add young children to the mix this can become a much more stressful situation.

“Any parent of young children knows how difficult it can be driving with kids in the car. There is arguing, forgotten things, hunger, boredom, mess making, the chance of them being moody, melting down, and asking endless questions, unless you're the parent of an angel.

“There are also emotional triggers which can make the driver want to reach for a smoke and these include anxiety, anger and even happiness and excitement, children have an inbuilt knack for setting them off at various times,” she said.

Her advice for parents responding to any bad behaviour or whiny attention seeking communication is to calmly ask the children to stop and reward any good behaviour.

“I would suggest they try not to elevate their own stress by reacting and getting mad and instead, positively reframe the situation in their own head.

“Like reminding themselves the children are only little and they're probably just tired, hungry or bored and this too shall pass. I would suggest counting to 10 slowly and taking several nice deep breaths.

“They can also go for fast acting distraction and calming techniques, like playing music, singing, playing ‘I spy with my little eye', that sort of thing,” she says.

Ms French welcomes the new legislation which protects children from second-hand smoke in an inescapable situation, but says more support is required.

“Smokers still do need more education and exposure to information to help them understand what the health risks are not only to them, but to their children in order to change their minds more effectively,” she says.