Birmingham health chiefs today welcomed the news that a ban on smoking in cars carrying children has moved a step closer after a House of Lords vote last night.
MPs will now be given a free vote on an amendment to the children and families bill – proposed by Birmingham peer Lord Hunt of Kings Heath – that would make it an offence for a driver to ‘fail to prevent smoking in the vehicle when a child or children are present’.
The move is backed by Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Steve Bedser, who said: “This is a significant step forward and the Lords deserve real credit for ignoring the pro-tobacco lobby and putting the needs of children first.
“Hopefully the Government can now take a similar brave step and introduce plain packaging as quickly as possible.
“We have a major game-changing opportunity to protect the next generation from the insidious clutches of the tobacco industry and must act now.”
Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips added: “The pro-tobacco lobby claims this is a debate about freedom, but what about the freedom of children to travel in a smoke-free environment?
“Of course adults should be free to make their own choices but not if those choices present a major health risk to children.
“Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of a wide range of conditions, including respiratory illnesses, meningitis and asthma.”
NB: Cllr Steve Bedser chairs Birmingham’s Tobacco Control Alliance and also leads on smoking for the Local Government Association Community Wellbeing Board
Second-hand smoke can be very harmful to a child’s lungs. Every year, it results in more than 165,000 new episodes of disease among children; 300,000 primary care consultations; 9,500 hospital admissions and around 40 sudden infant deaths.
Children travelling in a car in which an adult is smoking are particularly at risk.
Research has shown that, because cars are such small, enclosed spaces, a single cigarette smoked in a moving car with the window half open exposes a child in the centre of the back seat to around two thirds as much second-hand smoke as in an average smoke-filled pub.
Levels increase to more than 11 times greater than a smoke-filled pub when the cigarette is smoked in a stationary car with the windows closed.
Children are particularly vulnerable to passive smoke, as they have smaller lungs and their immune systems are less developed, which makes them more susceptible to respiratory and ear infections triggered by passive smoking.
BLF figures show that around 185,000 children between the ages of 11-15 in England are exposed to potentially toxic concentrations of second-hand smoke in their family car every day or most days.
That’s the equivalent of more than 6,100 classrooms full of children.
The data analysis also showed that over 430,000 children aged 11-15 in England are exposed to second-hand smoke in their family cars at least once a week.
Although members of the public are protected by smoke-free legislation in public transport and in work vehicles, large numbers of children remain exposed to high concentrations of second-hand smoke when confined in family cars.