The Dangers of Smoking In The Car

smoke in carDo you smoke in the car?

The dangers of smoking in the car is probably not even considered by smokers.  We all know how unhealthy it is to smoke and we all know the risks we take when we do.  But what about putting other people’s lives at risk?  How about the effect it has on your children, your family and your friends?  Is this thought not enough to make you want to quit?

2nd hand smoke not so bad?


Did you know that it’s as dangerous to breath in second hand smoke as it is to smoke?  Every time you smoke around other people, their lives and health are put at risk as well as your own.  That’s why there are laws prohibiting people to smoke in public places.  But what about your car?  How often do you smoke in your car when taking your kids to school or taking Mum and Dad out for a drive or going out with your friends to a restaurant?

Ok, you know it’s dangerous, but why?  We know that smoke into the lungs can’t be healthy, but is there something else going on here?  If you actually knew the science of what happens to your body when you smoke or take in second hand smoke, would you be more likely to stop the habit?  I’m hoping you would say YES, I would stop if I actually knew why smoking was bad for me.

smoker lungsLungs of a smoker

I think it is accepted that lung cancer, apart from other respiratory diseases, is an obvious outcome of smoking because of all the deposits from the smoke that stick to the lungs.  Over a period of time the lungs become encrusted with a tar like substance which is obviously detrimental to health.  But what about other diseases? What about illnesses that affect other parts of the body.  Take, for instance, neurological diseases such as MS  (multiple sclerosis), Parkinson’s Disease and how about Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia, Breast Cancer and Autism, to name but a few.

This alcohol kills!

There is a long list of chemicals found in cigarettes but there is one serious component of tobacco which is a poison.  It is so toxic, it has the skull and crossbones warning on any packaging or bottle that contains it.  Its destructive nature is mostly unknown to doctors and patients alike.  It has also been the cause of many deaths of youngsters who have ingested it without realizing what they are consuming.

dead from methanol23 year old dies from methanol poisoning

Cheznye Emmons, age 23, was given a spirit laced with deadly methanol while visiting an orangutan sanctuary in the Indonesia jungle.  It was part of a trip around south-east Asia with boyfriend Joe Cook, age 21.  Wood alcohol or methyl alcohol, is commonly known as methanol.

Innocent youngsters are dying, some whilst on holiday.  Methanol is much cheaper than ethanol and consequently some countries have been known to lace their drinks with this poison to make a higher profit.  Apart from greed, the problem is ignorance, the deadly toxicity of methanol is not readily known.

So what about smoking?  Did you know that smoke, produced from burning plant material, actually contains methanol?  As we know, cigarettes are made from the leaves of the tobacco plant.  Smoke from cigarettes, pipes and cigars are a major source of methanol.  Methanol has been identified as a direct cause of multiple sclerosis and is the only etiological cause of MS, generally accepted by the scientific community.

Ingesting methanol by smoking attacks the lungs first and then enters the bloodstream where it can go anywhere.  Methanol is known as wood alcohol because it is a by product of the burning of wood and plants.  When wood or plant matter is burnt, it simultaneously liberates large amounts of methanol.

Smoked fishSmoked products

Along with aspartame, consuming smoked products, pipe smoking, smoking cigarettes and cigars are associated with serious diseases, not least MS.  The incidence of MS can be directly corrulated with the smoking processes of food, ingesting smoke into the lungs by way of the habit of smoking and later on from the consumption of aspartame.  Each of these events shown in history, coincides with an increase of MS and other DOCs (diseases of civilization).  The highest incidence of MS in the world is Scotland and the Scottish Isles, where smoking fish and other foods is prevalent.  Peat, is often used as the fuel for smoking houses and has 3x as much methanol output than wood.

The exception of MS incidences was the Faroe Islands.  The Faroes had NO incidences of MS until the islands started to import cigarettes, smoked produce and canned foods after the British troops had introduced these goodies to them.  Concidently, the Faroe Isles never smoked their fish or food, they always used the air-drying way of preservation.

Plant matter will release its methanol if it is spoilt or has putrifying bacteria associated with it.  Tobacco is processed using the leaves from the ground and they are spoiling with putrifying bacteria.  This spoiling releases the pectin that is bonded to the methanol.  High temperatures will also release the pectin, hence the reason why smoking tobacco is so harmful and can cause such diseases as MS, autism and Parkinson’s.

Why is Multiple Sclerosis on the rise?

This sharp rise of MS and other diseases after the 1980s coincides with the introduction of aspartame, passed for human consumption in 1981 as a table sweetener and expanded in 1983 for use in carbonated drinks such as diet coke.  10.8% of the aspartame molecule consists of methanol, with the rest being two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylanaline.  All of these molecules are toxic in their own right.  If you smoke, live with someone who smokes, as well as consuming diet sodas and eating diet food, you are putting yourself and your family at serious risk of disease for now and for the future.

A slow and incidious decent into disease

Some of these diseases are slow to materialise.  The neurotoxins that get into your body slowly and incidiously, destroy you at the cellular level.  You or your family could go years without feeling any side efffects and then you may come down with MS symptoms, mental problems like brain fog, anxiety or aggression, ADHD, autism, tremours, facial tics, headaches or migraines.  The conditions are so numerous because neurotoxins can affect all areas of the body.

Diseases of civilization (DOC) coincide with smoking

The history of smoking coincides with the prevalence of these diseases and then, with the introduction of aspartame in the 1980s, which contains methanol, the figures started to soar.
Up until the late 19th century, smoking was not a habit many had.  Cigarettes were all made by hand and sold for a penny a piece.  Snuff was more prevalent than cigarette smoking but then James Bonsack invented the cigarette making machine in 1883 and the cigarette industry expanded rapidly.  By the early 20th century, billions of cigarettes were being produced in the US alone.  During these years, the incidence of serious diseases of civilization started to emerge and slowly increase.  Diseases of civilisation (DOC) depicts those diseases that were not found in the population before the industrial revolution, in other words modern diseases.

Methanol for fuel

At the same time, methanol was being used as fuel in the kitchens instead of wood burning stoves. Methanol was used more in solvents and glues, in the leather industry and for making shoes.  There is no doubt that these few years between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw a sudden explosion in the incidence of all of the diseases of civilization such as MS and Alzheimer’s.  This was also a time when the toxicity of methanol, not merely from cigarette smoking, but from many different sources, increased dramatically in both the diet and the environment.

Methanol, humans and other animals
Human Chromosomes with DNA Autoradiogram

Humans are the only animals who cannot metabolise free (not bonded) methanol safely.  All other animals have more trouble with ethanol than they do methanol.  We as humans can deal with ethanol with relative safety but methanol is toxic to us because when our ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase) metabolises it, it changes methanol into formaldehyde.  A variation of damage is caused, depending on where in the body this process takes place.  Areas in our body including the brain, a fetus, breast tissue, eyes, vessel linings, DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)….

When methanol is safe

When methanol is bonded with pectin such as in fruits and vegetables, the bond is too strong for the enzymes in our digestive system to break, hence methanol is cleared through the system with no toxic effect.  But this bond is broken if we consume bad or spoilt produce or foods that have been stored for long periods of time.  Once methanol is in its free state, the damage can be done when ADH changes the free methanol into formaldehyde.

Back to the car

Sitting in an enclosed environment such as a car with someone who is smoking, is not to be recommended.  If you do find yourself in this situation, you can now inform the smoker about the methanol they are taking into their lungs and expelling into the car, doing them harm as well as their fellow travellers.  A young child is particularly susceptible.  Their small bodies have to contend with the same amount of methanol as us adults.  If the passenger is pregnant there could be a problem for mother but especially the fetus.

Smoking versus Aspartame

A smoker consuming 20 cigarettes a day, about 20g of tobacco, inhales 40 mg of methanol.  One pack of cigarettes, produces the same amount of methanol as liberated from a litre of diet Coke.


An analysis of almost 16,000 blood samples from smokers, former smokers and non smokers found that tobacco smoke leaves a lasting legacy of people’s addiction on the surface of their DNA¹.   DNA methylation is an epigenetic mechanism used by cells to control gene expression. A number of mechanisms exist to control gene expression in eukaryotes, but DNA methylation is a commonly used epigenetic signaling tool that can fix genes in the “off” position.

The Protein Data Bank (PDB) states:

“Alcohol dehydrogenase provides a line of defense against a common toxin in our environment. But this protection carries with it some dangers. Alcohol dehydrogenase also modifies other alcohols, often producing dangerous products. For instance, methanol, which is commonly used to “denature” ethanol rendering it undrinkable, is converted into formaldehyde by alcohol dehydrogenase. The formaldehyde then does the damage, attacking proteins and embalming them. Small amounts of methanol cause blindness, as the sensitive proteins in the retina are attacked, and larger amounts, perhaps a glassful, lead to widespread damage and death”.
Ches Power

  1. Epigenetic Signatures of Cigarette Smoking. Circ Cardiovasc Genet. 2016 Oct;9(5):436-447. Epub 2016 Sep 20.

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4 thoughts on “The Dangers of Smoking In The Car

  1. Hi Chessie, I had found that this article was very informative and acted as a warning how the dangers of smoking affected one’s health. Beside this the chemicals such as methanol found in spirit drink was totally unacceptable and it should be ban. The dangers of smoking in the car should be ban regardless of any age too.

    1. Thanks for your comment Andy.  A law was passed in the UK in 2015 banning smoking in a car with anyone under the age of 18 years.  The fine can be up to £1000.  In March of 2016 some states in the US banned smoking in cars but each durisdiction has different age thresholds.  Upholding this law seems to be difficult in the US as well as the UK. 

  2. Hi chessie
    Great website and a powerful subject. Its so true that people that STILL smoke don’t realise the dangers to other people around them. For some people giving up smoking can be very difficult. I’ve stopped smoking now for 8.5 years I found it very easy to stop after 28 years of smoking. How you may ask. Well I decided that when i reach 40years old I would stop or I would never give it up, also what many non smoking people don’t realise is how enjoyable it is. Anyway the day before I reached 40 my tobacco had ran out. So as I planned already to stop I just did it. And never looked back. So basically plan to stop smoking is the way forward. And strong will power.:)

    1. Hi David and thanks for your comments and views.  I too decided to give up smoking one day.  Fortunately for me I had no problem but some find it very difficult and must be more addicted than others.  I’m pleased you stuck to your self promise to give up.  I bet you’re much healthier now!  

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