Drivers in England are soon going to be banned from smoking in their cars if they have a child as a passenger.
The new regulation, which will come in to effect on the 1st October, follows in the footsteps of a similar ban implemented in Wales. The primary goal is protect young people, in this case those under the age of 18, from second-hand smoke. Scotland, to complete the cycle within the union, is also said to be considering introducing a similar ban. The penalty for breaking this new regulation is a modest fine of £50 but that money will soon begin to add up.
The British Lung Foundation has hailed the new law as a victory, considering it could protect a younger generation from smoke, but on the side of smokers the group Forest has claimed that the ban will be unenforceable. They asked the question of how it could be enforced unless cameras are used constantly to check both for smoking and for the presence of a child in the vehicle.
The law also stipulates that it will not apply to anyone driving alone or driving in a convertible car with the top down.
The new regulations were passed in the Commons after 342 MPs voted in favour of legislation while just 74 voted against representing a truly overwhelming support for protecting children from smoke inhalation.
According to the British Lung Foundation, More than 430,000 children are exposed to second-hand smoke in cars each week, a truly staggering figure. Passive smoke inhalation in children has been shown to increase the risk of asthma, meningitis and cot death; this also does not include the potential for addiction later in life.
The Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison, said, “Three million children are exposed to second hand smoke in cars, putting their health at risk. We know that many of them feel embarrassed or frightened to ask adults to stop smoking which is why the regulations are an important step in protecting children from the harms of second-hand smoke.”
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, speaking following the decision said, “This is a tremendous victory.” She also continued on to say, “We urge the Government to show the same commitment to introduce standardised packaging for all tobacco products, in order to protect the 200,000 children taking up smoking every year in this country.” The standardised packaging comes following the decision in Australia in 2011 to enforce a “plain packaging law” meaning that the logo of the tobacco company could not be shown but also a picture chosen by the government; often of a decaying lung or other disturbing images.
Dr Woods continued on to say, “We are certain that these measures together will prove to be two of the most significant milestones for public health since the smoke-free legislation of 2007.”
Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, understandably given his position, said the legislation was excessive. “The overwhelming majority of smokers know it’s inconsiderate to smoke in a car with children and they don’t do it. They don’t need the state micro-managing their lives,” he said.
He also added that he fears that, “The police won’t be able to enforce the law on their own so the government will need a small army of snoopers to report people.”
Whilst this may be true a figure as large as 430,000 children who do not voluntarily inhale smoke cannot be ignored. Those children do need to be protected from smoking and if this new law helps even a little bit, then it was worth it.