Ban on smoking in cars carrying children backed by Lords

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

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The Lords has backed a Labour plan to ban smoking in cars carrying children, despite opposition from the government.

Labour peers tabled an amendment to the Children and Families Bill detailing their proposal for England, which they said was about "protecting children".

Ministers had argued that the new law was a "blunt instrument" and public information campaigns were preferable.

But the BBC understands that government backbenchers will not be pressed to reverse the change in the Commons.

Instead, they will have a free vote on the amendment when the bill returns from the Lords.

Around the UK

  • Any vote to ban smoking in cars carrying children would only affect England as the issue is the responsibility of the devolved governments elsewhere in the UK
  • Wales - Ban to be considered if awareness campaign fails
  • Scotland - An MSP is to introduce ban bill
  • Northern Ireland - Plans for consultation

A Downing Street spokesman said earlier that Prime Minister David Cameron was ready to "listen to the arguments".

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

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

Smoking was banned in England in workplaces and most enclosed public spaces in July 2007 following similar legislation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The law prohibited smoking in vehicles used for work.

The amendment to the Children and Families Bill was brought forward by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Lord Faulkner and Baroness Hughes.

Shadow public health minister Luciana Berger: ''It is about protecting children''

Conservative peer Lord Cormack argued that any law which "brings the state into the private space of individuals is to be deplored".

But Lord Hunt said: "I was very surprised by research that has been identified by the British Lung Foundation, which shows that a single cigarette smoked in a moving car with a window half open exposes a child in the centre of a backseat to around two-thirds as much second-hand smoke as in an average smoke-filled pub of days gone by."

The level increased to 11 times when the car was not moving with the windows closed, he said.

Lord Hunt went on: "Some Lords will argue a car is a private space and that we should not legislate for what happens within such a space. But there are more important principles than that.

Passive smoking effects

  • Smoke can stay in the air for up to two and a half hours even with a window open
  • This also applies in small enclosed places - like cars
  • Second-hand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, some of which are known to cause cancer
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke has been strongly linked to chest infections, asthma, ear problems and cot death in children
  • 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

"For one for me is the need for child protection. Unlike most adults, children lack the freedom to decide when and how to travel, they lack the authority most adults have to ask people not to smoke in their company.

"And in those circumstances I think it is right for Parliament to step in to protect children."

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham told Sky News the move had "strong public support".

Campaigners say the developing lungs of children are much more vulnerable to the effects of second-hand smoke - which can be concentrated in cars - increasing their risk of illnesses that range from asthma and colds to lung cancer.

They have been calling for action for some time. In 2009, Prof Terence Stephenson, then president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health called for a ban in a BBC News website opinion column.

'Completely unnecessary'

But the pro-smoking group Forest disputes such claims.

Director Simon Clark said: "Legislation is completely unnecessary. Most adult smokers accept that smoking in a car with children present is inconsiderate and the overwhelming majority choose not to.

History of anti-smoking measures

  • 2003 - Banned in indoor public spaces in New York
  • 2006 - Scotland introduces similar law
  • 2007 - Wales, Northern Ireland and England follow
  • 2011 - Australian pilot scheme introduces standard packaging - that is without branding
  • 2013 - Government launches independent review of cigarette packaging in England

"Education, not legislation, is the way forward."

Forest also argues that banning smoking in private vehicles would be almost impossible to enforce and a serious invasion of people's private space.

Health Minster Earl Howe said: "We all want to eradicate smoking in cars carrying children.

"The government believes that encouraging lasting and positive behaviour change by making smokers aware of the significant health risks of second-hand smoke will be more effective than resorting to legislation, which is a blunt instrument to tackle the problem.

"I believe we should only consider resorting to using legislation if our work to promote positive changes in behaviour is shown not to have the required effect."

He also argued there were "substantial challenges" with enforcing a ban on smoking in cars particularly vehicles "travelling at speed", questioning whether people would comply with the law if they knew there was little chance of it being enforced.

Damage caused by smoking

  • Smokers in their 30s and 40s are five times more likely to have a heart attack than non-smokers
  • Smoking contributes to coronary artery disease which increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke
  • It does huge damage to the lungs and massively increases the risk of lung cancer
  • Smoking also increases the risk of other cancers such as oral, uterine, liver, kidney, bladder, stomach and cervical cancer
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke can reduce lung function, exacerbate respiratory problems, trigger asthma attacks, reduce coronary blood flow, irritate eyes, and cause headaches and nausea
  • Smoking in pregnancy greatly increases the risk of miscarriage and is also associated with lower birth weight

But at the end of the debate peers backed the Labour amendment by 222 votes to 197.

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

In 2011, proposals from Labour MP Alex Cunningham cleared their first legislative hurdle, before facing significant opposition from MPs of all parties.

The following year, Lord Ribeiro introduced a private member's bill to make offenders liable for a £60 fine or attendance at a smoke awareness course. It won approval in the House of Lords, although supporters admitted they did not have government backing for the move.

The Labour amendment backed by the Lords was initially proposed by Croydon North MP Steve Reed last April.

He won the support of organisations including the British Heart Foundation, Asthma UK, the Royal College of Paediatrics, and Child Health.

Although children's minister Edward Timpson said at the time that a ban "would not be easy to enforce", the government was researching the issue, and Mr Reed withdrew his amendment.

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

    Comment number 637.

    We must also ban smoking when dogs, cats and goldfish are in the car. They don't have a voice either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 636.

    For all the people calling it un-enforceable...of course some will abuse it and get away with it.

    I work in the insurance industry and I have seen a huge increase in the amount of convictions for people caught using mobile phones (hurray).

    Just because you can't catch everyone doesn't render legislation useless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 635.


    Don't worry what this will lead to. Just worry about whether this is a good idea or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 634.

    Please Nanny look after me and make sure I never have to make a choice or decision again

  • rate this

    Comment number 633.

    This is an un-enforceable and stupid law - what next - banning smoking in peoples homes ! And for those that say children copy their parents and are affected by this - my three siblings and i grew up around our parents who smoked at home and in the car - all of us are healthy, highly educated and none of us smoke ! We must be the exception ! I see more ill effects from alcohol consumption !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 632.

    E-cigs for the win. Although I have given up smoking sometime ago, nothing worse than smoking around others who do not smoke. However, the Lords can not implement this, it would be impossible to implement such a thing. More pettiness from the Lords to make it look like they are caring about society. About time they implemented stuff that would actually work. Idiots.

  • rate this

    Comment number 631.

    Firstly none of my family smoke so this wont apply to us...but it is outrageous.Yet another interfering piece of Nanny state that most of us are getting sick off..If they smoke in the car, parents will do it in the what next, the bizzies demanding to check homes for signs of smoking...oh sorry they cant, Dave got rid of most of them..ridiculous

  • rate this

    Comment number 630.

    Let all the cigarette tax go to the NHS to pay 100% for treatment for smokers (and children).
    More jobs and more research posts etc etc for all. Fewer unemployed folks much time to smoke during the day.
    Everyone's a winner.
    Same with alcohol.
    And with chocolate !

  • rate this

    Comment number 629.

    This is silly.

    The dangers of smoking aren't a secret.

    If you choose to do it in a car with your kids that's your problem (and probably theirs after a few years).

    It doesn't need silly unenforceable law.

    Lets face it the police are struggling to stop drivers using handheld mobiles so the chances of stopping this will be about the same if a law is brought in...

  • rate this

    Comment number 628.

    Completely unenforcable, brought in by the leftie bullies to appease some pressure group or other with 1000 members. Should you smoke in a car with kids, no of course not.. should you legislate against it... only if you love ineffectively banning stuff - that'll be the Beeb and it's leftie mates then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 627.

    It is acknowledged that smoking is a stupid thing to do.

    We need this law because stupid people exist, and they seem too stupid to see that they harm themselves and the people around them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 626.

    Whilst I am against legislation that infringes on people's personal choices where any negative outcome affects only themselves, I don't think this is such an occasion. If the Law says children need to be seatbelted to protect them in a car, then it makes sense to not deliberately expose them to lethal chemicals that can significantly harm them. I reckon a spot fine of £100 should help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 625.

    1. Smoking kills. We know that.
    2. Passive smoke kills. We know that.
    3. Children learn behaviours from their parents. We know that.

    Add all that up what do you get?

    This isn't rocket science. Until somebody has the sense to ban tobacco completely & some people haven't got the sense not to smoke in a car with children on-board, then appropriate behaviour has to be forced upon them.

    An ex-smoker

  • rate this

    Comment number 624.

    It's not as if any law will be enforced though is it? It is illegal to smoke in a company vehicle as it is an extension of company premises, but I've seen plod cars sitting alongside vans with smokers flicking ash and dog ends out of the window and absolutely ignoring them. Two laws being broken, smoking and littering, and plod just chatting away to each other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 623.

    Once more we need a law to cover what should be common sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 622.

    Of course you shouldn't force children to breath your smoke, but I worry about what this will lead to.

    I have no children, and don't plan on having any (too many in the world already). This could soon turn in to a ban on smoking in cars, then smoking in my own home

    The "think about the children" brigade seem to be trying to dictate how I live my childless life (see also automatic lock on porn).

  • rate this

    Comment number 621.

    606. StrongPimphand
    This banning smoking malarky is really changing the way we live! Back in the day my girl 'worked around the KingsCross area and used to get the tube to work.. she smoked not only on it, but in all areas of the station, then for some reason they banned it!?
    Would that reason be the 40-odd people burned to death in King Cross station by a discarded cigarette?

  • rate this

    Comment number 620.


    It isn't bad, in the sense that a very select few will be prosecuted, the actual problem is going to go completely uninterrupted. The point is, the reason for the law is actually nothing to do with saving lives, it's to do with winning votes and political point scoring. It isn't saving anybody. Like I said, you happily kill children yourself anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.


    Yeah odbear - I don't think under 18s in a pub are going to drink beer against their will just by sitting in a room full of people drinking beer.

    Note well good man - smoke is an atmospheric particle that moves through the atmosphere from fag to sprog
    Beer is a liquid that is contained in a glass.

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    Any law needs to be enforceable, therefore make it simple - ban smoking outright in cars. Roads would be much safer anyway without people fumbling around with cigarettes while driving.


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