The British Medical Association (BMA) wants smoking banned in cars as it is claimed it exposes children to unnecessary danger of health risks and early crave for smoking. It is also claimed that in England, 8000 people die of smoking related diseases yearly, while the figure worldwide climbs to a whopping 6million
There is now strong evidence that smoking in vehicles exposes non-smokers to high levels of second hand smoke which is known to be damaging to heath, the BMA said.
Because of the small enclosed space inside a car, smoking creates 23 times more toxins than found in a smoky bar, it was claimed.
Children absorb more of these pollutants than adults because their immune systems are not as developed and cannot fend off the harmful effects as easily, the BMA warned.
The elderly are also at greater risk because they are prone to respiratory problems that are worsened by breathing second-hand smoke.
Meanwhile a group of MPs called for a public consultation on how to reduce the harms from smoking in cars.
The group concluded that the government should conduct a systematic review of the evidence of the harms of smoking in cars and the effects on adults as well as children.
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s Director of Professional Activities, said: “Every year in England there are over 80,000 deaths that are caused by smoking. This figure increases to a shocking six million worldwide.
“But behind the stark statistics, doctors see the individual cases of ill health and premature death caused by smoking and second-hand smoke. For this reason, doctors are committed to reducing the harm caused by tobacco.
“The UK made a huge step forward in the fight against tobacco by banning smoking in all enclosed public places but more can still be done.
“We are calling on UK governments to take the bold and courageous step of banning smoking in private vehicles. The evidence for extending the smoke-free legislation is compelling. The current UK Government prefers voluntary measures or ‘nudging’ to bring about public health change but this stance has been shown to fail time and time again.”
The launch of the BMA’s briefing paper coincides with the second reading of Alex Cunningham’s Private Members’ Bill calling for a ban on smoking in private vehicles when children are present.
Maura Gillespie, head of policy and advocacy at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Passengers in smoke-filled cars, including children, breathe in more pollutants than anywhere else.
“There is already clear evidence that passive smoking increases the risk of a number of serious health problems.
“Children especially need to be protected from the damaging effects of other people smoking in cars.”
Emily Humphreys, head of policy and public affairs at Asthma UK, said: “We fully support calls on parents and carers not to smoke in cars, particularly in the presence of children, as second-hand smoke has been proven to be harmful to children, causing asthma and triggering attacks.
“In addition, research suggests that children are more likely to start smoking if their parents or older siblings smoke so we actively encourage parents to not smoke around children and we ask them to really consider the impact this has on their health and development.”
Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest, said: “There is no justification for a ban on smoking in cars, with or without children present. The evidence that it is harmful to other passengers is weak, to say the least.
“We don’t condone smoking in cars with children. It’s inconsiderate, certainly, but only a small minority of people do so these days. Adults have a choice and they can choose not to travel in a vehicle if the driver is smoking.
“Legislation is a gross over-reaction. What next, a ban on smoking in the home?”
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “We do not believe that legislation is the most effective way to encourage people to change their behaviour.
“Smoking is undeniably one of the biggest and most stubborn challenges in public health.
“We will be launching a national marketing campaign next year to remind smokers of the risks of exposing children and adults to second hand smoke and we will be supporting local areas to work in partnership to encourage smokers to change their behaviour.”
By Rebecca Smith, The Telegraph