Health minister wants ban on smoking in cars to help protect children from second-hand smokeConfined space means the fumes other passengers breathe in can be 11 times more concentratedAround 300,000 children in the UK visit the GP each year due to second-hand smoke
23:47 GMT, 26 February 2013
15:47 GMT, 27 February 2013
Anna Soubry is the first frontbencher to suggest the proposal
Smoking in cars should be banned to protect children from second-hand smoke, a health minister declared yesterday.
Anna Soubry, a former smoker, said lighting up on the road was a ‘child welfare issue’ and called on the Government to consider making it illegal.
Health groups have called for a cigarette ban in cars for years as the confined space means the toxic fumes other passengers breathe in are up to 11 times more concentrated.
But Miss Soubry, a junior minister for public health, is the first frontbencher to suggest it, although she stressed this was her own opinion not Government policy.
‘I would ban smoking in cars where children are present’, she told the Local Government Association’s annual public health conference.
‘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.
The minister would need to convince David Cameron who said he backed the ban on smoking in public places, in place for six years, but was ‘nervous’ about legislating for behaviour in private cars.
Miss Soubry, Tory MP for Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire has courted controversy for her outspoken views on people’s lifestyles.
Last month she said children from poor backgrounds were more likely to be obese due to an ‘abundance of bad food’.
However research from a US university published shortly afterwards suggested in fact middle class children were more likely to be fat.
She has also described the current laws on assisted dying as ‘appalling’.
The minister would need to convince David Cameron who said he backed the ban on smoking in public places (posed by models)
A survey by the Department of Health last year found that more than one in five smokers lit up in front of their children in the home or in the car.
Around 300,000 children in the UK visit the GP each year due to second-hand smoke, with 9,500 visiting hospital.
It has been against the law to smoke in vehicles solely used for work, such as pool cars or lorries, since July 2007, a year after smoking in pubs, clubs and restaurants was banned.
While the government are not currently considering a ban, they have run marketing campaigns encouraging people not to smoke in front of their children at home or in the car.
The anti-smoking charity Ash said there is ‘growing public support for a ban on smoking in cars altogether.’ Martin Dockrell, its policy advisor 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.’
South Africa has banned smoking in cars as have some parts of Canada, the US and Australia. The British Medical Association and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health also back a ban.
Second hand smoke is particularly damaging to babies and children as their smaller lungs will breathe in relatively larger doses of smoke than adults, and their immune systems are still developing.
It is associated with asthma, ear infections, pneumonia and even cot death. Research has found children who breathe in smoke are more likely to get cancer in later life.
Last year the House of Lords approved plans to ban smoking in cars, by handing offenders a 60 fine or forcing them to attend a smoke awareness course.
But they acknowledged ministers prefered education to try and convince parents to change their behaviour. David Cameron suggested it would curtail personal freedoms, and said parliament needed to have a ‘serious think’ before taking such a step.
Labour MP Alex Cunningham introduced legislation urging a ban in the Commons last year but it faced significant opposition from MPs of all parties.