Health experts urge MPs to back car smoking ban

 
Person smoking in car with a small child in the back seat Smoking was banned in most enclosed public spaces in England in 2007

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More than 700 doctors and other health experts have put their names to a letter urging MPs to back a ban in England on smoking in cars with children present.

The issue is due to be voted on in Parliament on Monday.

The signatories to the letter in the British Medical Journal say the move is needed "to protect the well-being of children now and in the future".

They include nurses, doctors and surgeons working across the NHS.

The ban being debated would apply to under-18s - as 18 is the legal age at which people can buy cigarettes.

The letter argues that second-hand smoke exposure is a "major cause of ill-health in children", particularly among the most disadvantaged groups.

It says smoking in cars exposes children to particularly "high amounts of tobacco smoke" and there is now a consensus that children should be protected from such unnecessary hazards.

Smoking in cars

  • Just over a fifth of adults smoke and just over a fifth of those admit to smoking in front of their children
  • Smoke can stay in the air for up to two and a half hours even with a window open
  • Second-hand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, some of which are known to cause cancer
  • Exposure has been strongly linked to chest infections, asthma, ear problems and cot death in children
  • Research shows that 300,000 children in the UK visit the GP each year due to second-hand smoke, with 9,500 visiting hospital
  • Smoking in a car creates a higher concentration of toxins than in a bar - some research has put it at 11 times higher
  • Bans on smoking in cars when children are present already exist in some US states, including California, as well as in parts of Canada and Australia

It also says there are precedents to a ban, including laws to require people to wear seatbelts and, more recently, the ban on mobile phones while driving.

The signatories have been co-ordinated by Dr Nicholas Hopkinson, from Imperial College London, who is chairman of the British Thoracic Society's chronic obstructive pulmonary disease specialist advisory group.

He said: "This letter issues a powerful statement from the medical professionals of this country - the people who, every day, are treating illnesses brought on by second-hand smoke in children - about the rights of children to breathe clean air that won't make them sick.

"Next week, MPs have a chance to help protect children from the proven dangers of second-hand smoke.

"If they vote in favour, it could help protect the health of literally hundreds of thousands of children nationwide. If they vote against, it will go down in history as a huge missed opportunity."

Nurse Rebecca Sherrington, chairwoman of the Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists, said: "Many people don't realise quite how serious second-hand smoke can be for children, especially in the concentrations that can build up in the car.

"Parents are often surprised that it can lead to illnesses such as ear infections, meningitis and cot death."

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, added: "Bans on smoking in cars carrying children already exist and are being enforced in countries such as Australia, Canada, South Africa and the USA. It's about time that we started protecting children in this country too."

Tobacco specialist Peter Mackereth, from Manchester's Christie Hospital, said children's smaller undeveloped lungs and narrower airways struggled to cope with the sidestream of heavily concentrated cigarette smoke, which can contain carbon monoxide, arsenic and formaldehyde.

Tobacco specialist Peter Mackereth: "Rolling down the window... just funnels the smoke right back"

Rolling down car windows only served to funnel the smoke right back into the car towards the children in the backseats, he told BBC's Breakfast.

'Unnecessary intrusion'

Simon Clark, director of smokers' lobby group Forest, said: "Smoking in cars with children is inconsiderate but there is a line the state shouldn't cross when it comes to dictating how people behave in private places.

"Very few adults smoke in a car with children these days. We urge MPs to reject this unnecessary intrusion into people's private lives and trust parents to make the right decision for their children without the need for heavy-handed state intervention."

The vote by MPs comes after the House of Lords last week backed a Labour amendment to the Children and Families Bill.

The amendment empowers, but does not compel, the government to make it a criminal offence for drivers to fail to prevent smoking in their vehicles when children are present.

The government has now told its MPs they can have a free vote on the issue.

Labour has said that if the measure does not become law before the next election, it will be included in its manifesto.

Calls to prohibit smoking in private vehicles when children are present have been raised in Parliament on several occasions since the 2007 ban on smoking in public places came into effect.

The Welsh government has said it would consider a ban should an awareness campaign not lead to a drop in children's exposure to second-hand smoke.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, Lib Dem MSP Jim Hume has indicated he will be presenting a bill this year to bring in a ban, while Northern Ireland's health minister has announced plans for a consultation on the issue.

 

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  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 215.

    Why bother.

    It's alleged that only 12 people have been fined for hogging middle lanes since August when the law was changed for on the spot fines for this;

    few are charged for mobile phone use in cars;

    the Police will ignore this law just like all the others.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 214.

    I think smoking should be banned, its just a way to make the tobacco companies rich, but surly if someone's craving for a cigarette aren't they going to lose concentration not ideal if their driving.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 213.

    It may be hard to enforce, but perhaps pressure will lead to stopping smoking in cars. See how it goes, revisit it in 2017 - we can change the law again

  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 212.

    As a smoker I would never expect anyone, regardless of age, to breathe in my habit. I've always ensured that I don't smoke where it would bother people and have always supported the ban on smoking in public places. To be honest this should just be common sense not to smoke in a car with infants or anyone who does not wish to inhale smoke.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 211.

    It would be sensible to ban all smoking in vehicles. But it could never be policed, just like most petty regulations go unenforced.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 210.

    I think you find the morons who smoke near their children would do it anywhere and a unenforceable law won't change that as Dawcos comment proves

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 209.

    195. Chris mather

    Can you conduct an experiment for me?

    Next time you are in a moving car (not driving) open the window a little and note the dominant effect.

    Do you:
    a) Feel the air within the car mostly being sucked out.

    or

    b) Feel the air from outside the car being forced in.

    Here's a little helper, open a window near a field that has recently been sprayed with slurry can you smell it?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 208.

    @190. Jo Anton

    Agreed Jo, but its actually about making things effective, and this is not effective...what about when the kids get home? Are parents going to stop smoking? I doubt it, so the difference it will make is minor, there are other issues that could be tackled to bring about a wider and more concentrated effect...Politics 101, be seen to be doing something, attack the easy target.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 207.

    202.corncobuk
    3 Minutes ago
    188.
    CURTAINS 2012
    7 Minutes ago

    181.corncobuk
    3 Minutes ago

    +++

    Do cigarettes come with exhaust filters as diesel vehicles do?

    -----------

    So are you saying that stops diesel exhaust killing people?

    +++

    Harmful substances safely removed at source will not go on to cause harm!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 206.

    Smokers - you stink! Your clothes smell, your breathe smells, your hair smells, your cars smell, your homes smell - don't try to kid yourselves otherwise. If it was sewerage would you want that smell around you all the time? So why inflict it on other people? You may be oblivious to this, but believe me when you step into a house all the other occupants know. How can this be healthy! Think!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 205.

    You wouldn't subject your child to a faulty boiler with CO omissions, so why subject them to CO in a car? Add to that all the other poisons in a cigarette, plus second and third hand smoking dangers and you have an unbelievably toxic cocktail in a very confined space.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 204.

    @196.Yordie
    'Explain how a child who is forced to inhale 2nd hand smoke by his inconsiderate parent(s) has been given any choice in the matter.'
    Expalin to a child who is exposed to car fumes which are prooven to have caused an increase in childhood lung diseases. Just look at the rise in asthma. Just blaming smokers (which I'm not btw) is dangerously naive.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 203.

    195.Chris mather
    3 Minutes ago
    Tobacco specialist Peter Mackereth: "Rolling down the window... just funnels the smoke right back"

    No it doesn't!


    +++

    From where does the air evacuated by the slipstream come?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 202.

    188.
    CURTAINS 2012
    7 Minutes ago

    181.corncobuk
    3 Minutes ago
    ---------

    Of course not that would be a nonsense but is it acceptable to allow diesel fumes to kill people while banning smoking for doing the same thing? People don`t get the choice either way.

    +++

    Do cigarettes come with exhaust filters as diesel vehicles do?

    -----------

    So are you saying that stops diesel exhaust killing people?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 201.

    Will they be also appointing secret police to monitor and report drivers who smoke ? The police certainly have neither the time nor the resources to waste time chasing smokers, they have already given up on mobile phone users driving , as witnessed by the number of idiots doing it. If these quango dwellers have nothing better to waste public funds on , their funding should be withdrawn .

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 200.

    Education not legislation is the way to go here. To the dense parents who don't know already a hard hitting TV Ad campaign extolling the dangers of passive smoke in confined spaces should do it.

    This could be funded by the money that would have been spent on enforcing a new law on smoking in cars.

    My Dad smoked in the car I threw up down the back of his neck, never smoked in the car again!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 199.

    192. omegaman
    However, pressure groups exist that are trying to achieve smoking bans in open air spaces. This is shameless discrimination
    ---
    Like our government, for example?
    http://smokecontrol.defra.gov.uk/

    Discrimination is germane. Given the existence of other pollutants a ban based on clean air rather than smoker persecution seems like good sense on one hand hugely impractical on the other.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 198.

    191.nefer
    3 Minutes ago
    The absence of the universal principle makes one wonder who these 700 doctors and so-called "experts." are.


    +++

    Being an "expert" is not necessary. Possession of Common Sense is enough to see that children should not be fumigated.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 197.

    What sort if a parent smokes in their car, with children aboard, No! don't tell me,I've seen them, on the way to the food bank in their 4x 4.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 196.

    @ NO 174: Bumble

    (Smoking is) "an individuals choice".

    Explain how a child who is forced to inhale 2nd hand smoke by his inconsiderate parent(s) has been given any choice in the matter.

 

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