Labour MP Alex Cunningham has called for a ban on smoking in cars where children are present. He said children were particularly vulnerable to the effects of passive smoking and could not “remove” themselves from cars where cigarette smoke was circulating.
Research suggests that more than 300,000 children visit doctors every year with health problems associated with passive smoke while there were 20,000 new cases of asthma and wheezing among children every year. Dr Sean Semple, of the University of Aberdeen said that children are particularly susceptible because they have faster breathing rates, and a less developed immune system.
Mr Cunningham said a ban had been introduced in several US states, including California, as well as in parts of Canada and Australia and had growing support in the UK among health campaigners and the public. Tory MP Philip Davies who campaigns against political correctness said it should be up to parents to decide whether they smoked in cars and there was a "complete lack of evidence" about the beneficial impact of the proposal. Mr Davies said "this proposal is excessive, intrusive and insulting to British parents who smoke the suggestion of banning smoking in private vehicles with a minor present is yet another unwarranted intrusion on individual freedom. The government should have no role at all in regulating the private lives of adults who make decisions as adults."
Mr Cunningham said the "science was clear" about the dangers of passive smoking and that societal attitudes had changed on the issue in the past decade reflected by the ban on smoking in public transport, planes and taxis. The Labour MP acknowledged many people felt the car was a "private space" but he believed it was children's space as well and "some people were invading it with dangerous smoke". He told MPs "adults can make up their mind about the dangers of smoking. It is children we need to protect the fact that children can be exposed to such an environment in cars is reason enough to bring in a ban on smoking in private vehicles where they are present. I can't see how it would be any real hardship to anyone to stop smoking in private vehicles and the benefits will be tremendous."
Professor John Britton, chair of the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Advisory Group, says a ban is necessary to protect children. He said estimates suggested that each year passive smoking in children accounted for more than 20,000 cases of lower respiratory tract infection, 200 cases of bacterial meningitis, and 40 sudden infant deaths. The British Medical Association said an outright ban even if there were no passengers would be the best way of protecting children as well as non-smoking adults.
By Geraldine Ashton Green
Wed, 24 Oct 2012