Smoking in one’s car has many ramifications — yet for a smoker, the joys of fighting monotony at the wheel can be healed by that pleasurable rush of nicotine. In an America where most spaces are outlawing the habit, a private car is one of the few outposts left to indulge.
There are a few things to consider, though: Safety, health of passengers, car value deterioration and flammability.
Safety should be your number one concern. Forget your passengers for a minute – lighting up while driving is dangerous in itself. If you’re in motion, fumbling around with a lighter takes your attention right to getting fire to the end of your cancer stick. (Fumbling around with matches is worse.)
Smokers often naturally light up with the window down while in motion — not at stop lights — for two reasons: one, the smoke conveniently blows out the window while driving but stays in the car while sitting at a light, and two, unless it’s gridlock, the average smoker would prefer to smoke away from other cars sitting nearby that cannot move.
If you’re on the highway, consider getting some cheap cigars for that nicotine need: They last for 20 minutes or more, the need to light up is less often and ash is less likely to break off in the wind. (Incidentally, for those who argue about ashes being sent out the window, it is safer to ash out the window than to fumble around with a car ashtray, which takes one’s eyes off the road.)
Your next consideration should be where that smoke goes. In the case of driving alone with the window open, it more or less goes out the window. Try it – have someone light up while going 45, take a couple puffs, and then open the window. It disappears right out the window – magic!
However, if you have others in the car, it still affects them. They also are likely to open their window for fresh air, causing an equilibrium in the airflow — i.e. the smoke stays in the car longer. Indeed, with the impact secondhand smoke has on passengers, the liberal city of Bangor, Maine passed a law banning smoking in one’s car with children riding onboard.
The health of your passengers should be of concern, and it may be worth it for you and them if you wait until the next rest stop to grab a puff.
The other thing to watch out for is flammability. Smoke might go out the window, but ashes can go anywhere when you get that cancer stick near the window. Imagine ashes landing on something flammable, and you have a problem on your hands. Take the example of one driver who dropped her cigarette in her lap while driving; it burned her seat, dress and leg. Always place consideration to where ashes land while driving — often blown to the backseat — and consider ashing with the car stopped.
Lastly, smoking decreases your car’s value, but it’s all about how much smell stays in the car. Cloth seating retains the smell of smoke more than leather, but the smell will stay in your car. The ashes will need to be vacuumed out as well. It will take a few days to air out the vehicle completely – less if you drive with all windows down while not smoking. Mind for those who drive in true winter climates, this is difficult.
Smoking in the car does not reduce how much your clothes and hair will smell, and other drivers won’t be impressed by the fact they can smell you a mile away (figurately at the very least). However, one’s vehicle is one of the few places one can do it, and we are all for the better in one way: it isn’t outside the door of your favorite bar or place of work.