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Most Smoke-Free Rental Cars Aren’t Smoke Free

Aired 3/2/12 on KPBS News.

A new study reveals consumers can't count on smoke-free rental cars being the real thing.

— People who think they're renting a "smoke-free" car in San Diego should think again. A new study reveals most non-smoking rental cars have signs of tobacco use.

Researchers at San Diego State examined 100 rental cars that were labeled smoke-free. Researchers collected dust, took air samples and tested interior surfaces.

They found physical evidence that 60 of these cars had been smoked in.

SDSU professor Georg Matt said residue from tobacco smoke contains many compounds that are known irritants and carcinogens.

"But to what extent and how these components end up in humans, whether it's through inhalation, or through ingestion, or dermal transfer, those are very important research issues," Matt said.

California law does not restrict smoking in rental cars. But Matt said even though most rental companies do, his research suggests they do a poor job of enforcing it.

Matt's study is published in the journal Tobacco Control.

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