I’m pleased to see that the government gave its MPs a free vote on the issue of whether to pass legislation on banning smoking in private cars.
The amendment – passed by 376 votes to 107 – empowers, but does not compel, the government to make it a criminal offence for drivers to fail to prevent smoking in their privately owned vehicles when children are present.
Now I’m not in favour of a “Nanny State” but I feel the science behind this piece of legislation is overwhelming – and as a child who had to endure my parents smoking in the car, I am glad that it will benefit thousands of children.
For Labour, shadow health minister Luciana Berger said: “This is a great victory for child health which will benefit hundreds of thousands of young people across our country. It is a matter of child protection, not adult choice.”
She added: “The will of Parliament has been clearly expressed today and this must be respected. Ministers now have a duty to bring forward regulations so that we can make this measure a reality and put protections for children in place as soon as possible.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Second-hand smoke is harmful to children and it is right that this has been debated in Parliament. We will now determine how this amendment should be taken forward.”
In the meantime, Public Health England would continue its campaign to “ensure parents fully understand the dangers of second-hand smoke and are encouraged to stop smoking in the home or car if there is a child present”, he added, saying: “Evaluation of those campaigns shows they are increasing awareness of the risks of second-hand smoke as well changing attitudes and behaviours.”
Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “Having campaigned on this issue for many years, we’re absolutely delighted that MPs have backed the ban on smoking in cars carrying children. This could prove a great leap forward for the health of our nation’s children.”
Smoking in cars
- 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 indicates that 300,000 children in the UK visit a GP each year because of the effects of second-hand smoke, with 9,500 going to 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.
What are your thoughts?