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 1069.

    1 Minute Ago
    I think smoking in a car is not sensible - no ventilation

    What!!! no ventilation, what sort of car do you own, try opening the window!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1068.

    In an emergency, you can drop your phone on the seat or floor?
    Holding a cigarette means you are not in control of your car.
    If your cigarette drops in your lap. You will PANIC AND CRASH.
    Smoking is worse than Phoning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1067.


    First, WOO! I got an editors pick! :D

    Second, I like to think that I have mastered the art of not setting myself aflame. I have smoked for a long time and have enjoyed many cigarettes behind the wheel.

    And somehow, shockingly, I have yet to ignite my crotch.

    (NB. Writing in all caps does nothing FOR GETTING YOUR POINT ACROSS)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1066.

    Banning smoking when there are children in the car sure, but not just adults. Also what is more dangerous - smoking a cigarette while driving or a nicotine staved, stressed smoker in traffic. Car drivers should be calm - smoking helps calm down smokers. A full ban seems to me a dangerous idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1065.

    1024. No, you're missing the point. Again. It's currently legal and it's unlikely to be banned. Comparing it to murder and child porn, as you have done previously, is a foolish and unhelpful argument.

    Ignoring the fact that most smokers don't die 'a long, slow, painful death' , I assume you have the same attitude towards all those who drink and those who eat fatty foods?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1064.

    I didn't see Edwin Poots (the N.I. Minister behind the calls for consultation on all smoking in cars) complaining about pollution and damage to people's health whenever he tried lifting the passenger limits at Belfast City Airport. Strange how he's now concerned about us again all again... ain't it sweet?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1063.

    That's the problem with society - they can't convince people of their point of view by rational debate,so they bend people to their will by lies,deception and force. Isn't that basically what a Tyranny is? Should we be likening the BMA and our 'democratic government' to Hitler? Perhaps they need to start imprisoning smokers for not confirming to their concept of 'socially normal'

  • rate this

    Comment number 1062.

    I have no problems with smokers and their horrid habits. It is up to them what they do.

    But why are so many in complete denial of the damage that their habit causes to themselves and to those who are forced to breath in their second hand smoke? The medical evidence is overwhelming.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1061.

    What good news, another unenforceable law designed purely to generate revenue through fines. Why not make smoking illegal, end of! offer everyone who smokes free access to aids and drugs to help with cause, and then cease sales. Of course that means no revenue to HMRC through tobaco sales and no kickbacks from tobacco comapnies! But with the cost of treating smoking related ilness being so high...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1060.

    Its unpleasant but lets ban farting in cars! It is just not right when you ban a legal activity in a private environment (like pubs!)

    The honest response (which is not a recommendation) is to ban smoking. Either it is a legal private activity or it isnt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1059.

    For all of the Just-Ban-Smoking-Outright crowd, I for one can see about ten billion reasons (per year) why it won't happen.

    Aside from the cost in votes from embittered forcibly ex-smokers (figure about 15-20% of the electorate) you'd also be kissing goodbye to enough tax revenue to buy an aircraft carrier each and every year, which would have to be replaced (at the cost of even more voters).

  • rate this

    Comment number 1058.

    1016.Melocanayaya - The Scourge Of Boy Bastin: it is no more or less dangerous than listening to the radio or winding down the window.

    And this made editor's pick? You agree with someone saying that a burning-hot incendiary which you will ultimately drop square on your genitalia IS NO MORE DANGEROUS THAN HAVING A WINDOW OPEN?

    Christ, Radio 1's Scott Mills' Stupid Street meets HYS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1057.


    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


    Why isn't your motorcyclist wearing a helmet and visor?

    For the sake of saving his life we should ban him from leaving the house.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1056.

    979.good boy

    Could you locate the "CAPS LOCK" key (to the left of the "A" key) and toggle it off, please? There's a good boy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1055.

    I am a smoker and so is my partner and we have no children nor do we intend to however when we have people or children in the car we simply do not smoke out of common courtesy and respect.

    Why should I have MY choice to smoke in MY car taken away if there is no one else in it that can be harmed?

    Get a life BMA and focus on something a bit more worthy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1054.

    I agree that if children are in the vehicle you should not smoke but the fact is most smokers are decent enough people not to, a ban isnt needed! Smokers aren't people who want to subject the world to second hand smoke or take away the 'civil rights of other people', we just want to be able to smoke in private spaces. Non smokers get off your high horses and leave the smokers alone!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1053.

    Since the Smoking Ban in Pubs, licensee's have seen their trade drop by 78% thousands have closed down and out of business, and no it does not stop smokers.
    Taking away Civil Rights has gone far enough, to ban smoking in cars is ridiculous, and stop using children as a pathetic excuse.
    And just for the record Car exhaust fumes can kill you in 3 minutes flat, compare that against smoking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1052.

    Smoking around kids is largely a chav phenomenon.

    As educated people, we don't need to be told that this is a bad idea. However , it is necessary in their case:

    1 To save you from yourself, Tony.
    2 To save them from each other
    3 To save us from them

  • rate this

    Comment number 1051.

    This whittling away of rights to smoke is going to end up with the worst of both worlds where we facilitate people's addiction by allowing smoking, but effectively torture them by not allowing them the space to service it. Personally I think the compromise we have now is quite reasonable, but single minded lobby groups will always want more. I think goverment needs to decide on the end game here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1050.

    To all the people who would completely ban smoking: druglords and other criminals around the world agree with you, as they would be the ones to profit. I understand your feelings, but just prohibiting something does not make it disappear automatically. Practically it will lead to more crime. Just look at the war on drugs.


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