The government’s Health Minister has suggested that drivers should no longer be allowed to smoke in their vehicles if their children are with them due to the fact that second-hand smoke is harmful for children. Anna Soubry, who is a former smoker herself, announced her opinions at the Local Government’s Association annual public health conference, and said: “I would ban smoking in cars where children are present. I would do that for the protection of children. I believe in protecting children. I would see it as a child welfare issue. I think it is something we should at least consider as a government.”
Currently, there is no law against smoking in vehicles with or without children present, but drivers can face fines or prosecution if they are found to be driving dangerously due to smoking, which could also result in their future motor insurance quotes being higher. Last year the House of Lords approved plans to ban smoking in vehicles and issuing sixty pound fines to offenders, as well as requiring them to go to a smoke awareness course. However, Prime Minister David Cameron is wary about introducing a ban on smoking while driving as some critics have said that it infringes too much on people’s private lives and human rights.
Last year a survey by the Department of Health revealed that three hundred thousand children have to go to their GP each year due to second-hand smoke, and 9,500 are even admitted to hospital. Second-hand smoke is extremely damaging for children due to their small lungs and underdeveloped immune systems, and if a driver smokes in their car the fumes can be eleven times stronger due to the fact that they are in a confined space. The anti-smoking charity Ash said that there is “growing public support for a ban on smoking in cars altogether.”
The policy advisor for Ash, Martin Dockrell also said: “The minister can count on our support and the majority of the public. A ban on smoking in cars is the right thing to do. We need to think about whether this should just be aimed at children. Older adults are vulnerable too.” It is already illegal to smoke while driving in Australia, Canada, and America, however David Cameron thinks it may be wiser to educate parents about the dangers of smoking whilst driving with children instead of creating new laws.