Car Smoking Ban Coming To The UK


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Smoking in cars carrying children is to be banned in the UK from October according to proposed government legislation which will be in the form of an amendment to the Child And Families Bill. If the amendment to the bill goes through it will mean a fine of £50.00 and potentially even points on your license if you are found to be smoking in a car carrying an under 18.

The legislation seems to have come partly as a result of increased pressure from the Department Of Health who want the government to do more to “protect young people from the serious health harms of smoked tobacco”, with the health minister saying “the only effective way to protect children is to prevent them breathing in second hand smoke” and she believes the smoking ban in cars will help that. The Department Of Health is using data from the World Health Organisation which states second hand smoke is “a real and substantial threat to a child’s health” to back up their claims and further push this bill amendment through parliament. So how many people could be affected by this bill change? Well the British Lung Foundation estimates that approximately 430,000 children are unnecessarily exposed to second hand smoke in family cars on a weekly basis, so quite a lot.

We completely agree with this bill and what it is trying to achieve, however it seems there may arguably be some issues. Firstly there is the obvious impracticality of enforcing this law. Do the police have time to be stopping people they suspect to be smoking whilst having a child in the backseat? And why are we just stopping with children, second hand smoke is harmful to adults too, so doesn’t a complete blanket ban on car smoking make more sense? Furthermore if we follow this logic of banning smoking in cars to stop children inhaling second hand smoke, should we then not ban smoking in houses with people smoking in small rooms with children present for the same reason?

Finally, an interesting point we read online was about number of harmful fumes many children are exposed to in general (traffic fumes, factory fumes ect) so does just targeting car cigarette smoking only make that much sense? On this last question, we guess, from the governments perspective cigarette smoking in cars can be controlled more so than a child inhaling factory or traffic exhaust fumes in the open air. Additionally there is also the fact that inhaling concentrated cigarette smoke in a confined area (ie. a car) is arguably more harmful than inhaling it in a more open space. For example research has shown that smoking in a car creates a higher concentration of toxins, up to 11 times the concentration than in a bar.

Overall, we agree that reducing and ideally eliminating the amount of second hand smoke a child is exposed to is definitely a good and worthwhile thing that should be pursued, especially as the BBC reports that research indicates that “300,000 children in the UK visit the GP each year because of the effects of second hand smoke, with 9,500 going to the hospital”, however we still have questions regarding the practicality of enforcing these new laws.

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