Ban smoking in cars, says British Medical Association


Dr James Cant of the British Lung Foundation carried out an experiment to measure the amount of toxins passed on to passengers

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All smoking in cars should be banned across the UK to protect people from second-hand smoke, doctors say.

The British Medical Association called for the extension of the current ban on smoking in public places after reviewing evidence of the dangers.

It highlighted research showing the levels of toxins in a car can be up to 23 times higher than in a smoky bar.

But a report by a cross-party group of MPs and peers said non-legislative options should be considered as well.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health even said calling for an immediate ban could be "counterproductive" as consensus needed to be built across society before taking such as step.

The group said there should be a consultation on tackling smoking in cars which could look at whether it would be better to have an outright ban, or if more could be achieved by raising awareness about the dangers through education campaigns.

It pointed out that policing a ban on smoking in cars could be difficult.

Smoking in cars

  • Just over a fifth of adults in England smoke; the figure is slightly higher in other parts of the UK
  • It is estimated that between a third and half of smokers will light up while in a car
  • If they do so the concentration of toxins is much higher in a car than a smoky bar; some research has put it at 23-fold, although others have suggested lower figures
  • If windows are open, the concentration levels can be lower
  • Smoking is already banned in vehicles that are used for work purposes, such as taxis
  • As yet no part of the UK has banned smoking in private cars

No part of the UK has yet implemented a ban, although ministers in Northern Ireland have said they will launch a consultation on the issue.

Meanwhile, in Wales a public awareness campaign has begun highlighting the dangers of smoking in cars. Officials have said if that does not succeed over the next three years, a ban will be introduced.

Neither England or Scotland are currently considering introducing legislation at the moment.

But the BMA believes tougher action is needed.

The doctors' union said an outright ban - even if there were no passengers - would be the best way of protecting children as well as non-smoking adults.

It said the young were particularly vulnerable from second-hand smoke as they absorbed more pollutants and their immune systems were less developed.

Research has show that second-hand smoke can increase the risk of a range of conditions, including sudden infant death syndrome and asthma, as well as impairing lung function.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science at the BMA, admitted introducing a ban would be a "bold and courageous" move.

She added: "The evidence for extending smoke-free legislation is compelling."

International action

While no part of the UK has yet taken such a step, countries elsewhere in the world have.

Some states in Canada, the US and Australia, as well as the whole of South Africa, have introduced legislation, but in each case it has been focused on stopping smoking where children are present.

Your views on whether smoking should be banned in cars

Instead, the BMA said a complete ban would be better as it would be easier to police. It would also have the added benefit of potentially improving safety as smoking could be a distraction for the driver, the report said.

The recommendation, which was produced after doctors' voted at their annual conference in the summer in favour of their union lobbying for a ban, received some support from other health groups.

However, the likes of Asthma UK and the British Heart Foundation said any ban should only cover children.

But smokers' lobby group Forest said there was "no justification" for a ban at all.

Director Simon Clark said: "Legislation is a gross overreaction. What next, a ban on smoking in the home?"

A spokesman for the Department of Health in England said: "We do not believe that legislation is the most effective way to encourage people to change their behaviour."

He said instead a marketing campaign would be launched in the spring which would focus on the dangers of smoking in the home and car.

  • The BMA issued a correction on Thursday retracting the claim that research showed the levels of toxins in a car can be up to 23 times higher than in a smoky bar. Instead it said the risk in a car was 11 times greater. A spokeswoman said the mistake was due to human error, and it had made the amendment after becoming aware there was other research that disputed their original figure.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1049.

    As a smoker I find these petty bans and restrictions infuriating. If smoking is so bad for us (either actively or passively) then ban the sale of tobacco outright. This would prove that the government were honestly try to make a positive change in the general health of the population.
    Either ban tobacco and forgo the tax revenue or leave us alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1048.

    Yes, it may be true that alcoholics die younger than smokers.Unless, of course, the smoker gets cancer and swings the odds in favour of being an alcoholic.Why does it have to be an "or" decision?? How about we don't become alcoholics AND don't smoke near people who don't want to passive smoke?

    Passive smoking is worse than being with a drunk - at least drinkers don't spray old beer in your face.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1047.

    If you're breathing heavy petrol fumes from your own car in from inside your car then you've got a problem with your car buddy, and it probably shouldn't be on the road to start with.

    If you say taking your hand off the wheel for a draw of a fag isn't safe, then why are we allowed to drive manual cars? You need to take a hand off the wheel to change gear!! Flawed argument.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1046.

    Smoking is a disgusting habit and I am surprised it wasn't banned in cars when mobile phones were as it is just as dangerous. One of my pet hates however, is smokers flicking their still lit cigarettes out the window, that is surely already illegal as it is littering!! Foul people!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1045.

    You can only go so far. To ban smoking more and more will just drive it underground into the murky world of drugs. Let's face it loads of people take drugs yet they are totally banned, do think banning smoking wont have the same result? It is like prohibition in America. It didn't work

  • rate this

    Comment number 1044.

    There's a very good reason why you will almost never ever meet a bus or HGV driver over the age of 65

    90% of people are not fit to drive after the age of 65"

    Wrong. The actual reason is that until October this year employers could forcibly retire such employers. It is likely that 65 year olds could not drive for 10 hours a day, but that does not mean they are unfit to drive cars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1043.

    975. mm sounds a bit like a person who would have been in a political party in the 30s. then one of there foot soldiers. lower life forms, do you work in gas chamber manufacturing by any chance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1042.

    I am a non-smoker, neither of my parents are smokers. I am also pro choice; why oh why do we have to ban everything all the time in peoples' own private space. To anyone who says ban smoking all together what would you say in alcohol or chocolate or any other vice of the people is next, where does it stop?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1041.

    First ban smoking at Westminster! Then ban breathing!!!!! Then ban drinking! We are born and we all die.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1040.


  • rate this

    Comment number 1039.

    Smoking and using a mobile are completely different. You don't look at cigarette whilst you smoke it and it only occupies 2 fingers of 1 hand so I mostly have 2 hands on the wheel except for the 2 seconds I take a drag. No different than changing gear! This is nanny state to the max, most people already do the responsible thing and don't smoke if they have a non-smoking passenger. Butt out BMA!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1038.

    As an ex-smoker I completely agree about stopping smoking in pubs and clubs and enclosed spaces, but in MY car, MY personal space certainly NOT. If the governmant wants to pay for my transport (public) then fine, otherwise I think we all pay far far too much to be drivers to start with without being opressed by the BMA and others.


  • rate this

    Comment number 1037.

    next they'll be fitting all cars with camera's to see what we do whilst driving. Butt out of my life, you have no right to tell me what to do in my own vehicle........

  • rate this

    Comment number 1036.

    I do not smoke in my car if I have other people around. I do smoke in my car when I am on my own. I will continue to smoke in my car regardless of any '1984' law. It is my right to smoke if I want to & my car is my property & space. Enough is enough, try working on solutions to reduce stress, not increase it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1035.

    I'm starting to feel like the Jews in Germany in the 1930's, I'm another minority being persecuted for what I am, a smoker. I never smoke in the car if there are others in the car, however, I demand the right to indulge in a legal activity in my own car on my own. My car is now about the only place I can smoke in comfort when I'm away from home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1034.

    I do not smoke in my car with children or friends that dont smoke, but i have a great idea thats really cheap to police- IF YOU DONT LIKE IT, DONT COME IN MY CAR!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1033.

    Yet an other example of the abrogation of personal responsibility. Every time I visit the UK I'm amazed at the myriad of rules and warnings directed at the general public - many of which originate with a well-meaning but short-sighted medical establishment. Responsibility comes through education and not through legislation. And, yes, I am a smoker and, no, I do not smoke in the car.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1032.

    #1011 Tony77

    I'd love to agree with your assertion, but your suggestion that Arnold55555 is a superior lifeform is clearly flawed. Sorry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1031.

    2 Minutes ago
    Most people who smoke in cars do so with a window open, some even drive open-topped cars, in both cases the 'pollution' normally exits the car.

    Yes.... along with the butts, straight into the eyes of following motorcyclists etc
    While attitudes like this prevail, it shoild be banned completely in cars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1030.

    #184 - you are absolutely right and all I can say is, give them time. After alcohol will come red meat/bacon etc. I am so happy that so many people know not only what is best for me but also are generous enough to want to impose it on me.


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