Smoking main cause of preventable child death - Plunket

Smoking anywhere where children are present is the main cause of preventable death and health problems in childhood. That's according to Plunket, which wants to stamp out smoking around children.

Part of the problem is smoking in cars with children on board, and The AM Show is on a campaign to get the Government to ban it.

Plunket clinical services manager Counties-Manukau Gay Ford joined host Duncan Garner on Wednesday to discuss the campaign.

"We know it's dangerous, any kind of smoking is dangerous, and especially in cars," she told Garner.

"In the enclosed space the smoking, the nicotine, the poisons - all of the toxins involved, but also the smoke - can affect children's health. The unborn child as well as children that are present in cars."

According to Plunket, around 100,000 kids every week suck down second-hand smoke. Ms Ford says some people don't realise the danger to their children of smoking in cars.

"Sometimes the addiction and the need for cigarette smoking is overwhelming," she says.

"We can educate until the cows come home but still we do things out of habit and out of addiction."

But this can have a deadly effect on the young. Asthma nurse educator Elaine Murray says children are particularly vulnerable.

"Their lungs are very small and still developing, and they do breathe a lot faster than adults - so if they're breathing in secondhand smoke, they're going to be breathing in a lot more of those particles."

Ms Ford says smoking is mostly a problem for Māori and vulnerable families.

"Smoking is huge and we understand that there are a lot of families out there that have that issue and in terms of Plunket data we've got at least a quarter of all families that we see... that have smokers in the household," she says.