Children in your car? Don’t light up, it could cost you £10,000

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3 September 2014

How necessary is a ban on smoking when children are in cars?

A law being proposed in the UK parliament will make it illegal to smoke in a car in England if it is carrying children.  A passenger who lights up faces a maximum £800 fine, but drivers who fail to stop passengers smoking in front of a child face fines of up to £10,000.

Health campaigners support the move, but opponents say it is excessive, unnecessary, and another example of the ‘nanny state’.

The idea was backed by a majority of MPs in February, forcing ministers to draw up detailed legislation.  The vote gave ministers in England and Wales the power to bring in a ban – but does not compel them to do so.

There is a question mark over enforcement.  Tory veteran Ken Clarke said:”‘I don’t think our traffic police are going to be concentrating enormous efforts on racing up and down the motorway peering into cars, trying to see whether there’s a child.”

Mr Clarke and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg joined with those who warned that such legislation would be illiberal and unworkable.

Public health minister Jane Ellison said: “The only effective way to protect children from second-hand smoke is to prevent them breathing it in the first place.”

Campaign group Ash (Action on Smoking and Health) urged ministers to bring in the law change before May’s General Election. Chief executive Deborah Arnott said: “Cars are small tin boxes where concentrations of tobacco smoke can reach dangerous levels very quickly.”

But Simon Clark, director of smokers’ group Forest, said: “A ban is excessive and unnecessary.”

Wales became the first country in the UK to consider tackling the issue after Welsh government-backed research by Cardiff University suggested one in 10 children in Wales continues to be exposed to smoke in family cars.

Dr Graham Moore, who led the study, welcomed the proposed ban. “There is evidence to show high levels of public support for a ban on smoking in cars carrying children,” he said.

In England, the Department of Health has launched a six-week consultation after the UK government said it wanted a ban before the next general election in 2015.

All this raises some interesting questions in the arena of .  There is strong evidence that passive smoking increases the risk of cancer and other health problems, so there could be youngsters who might reasonably claim in years to come that prolonged exposure to smoke at home or in the family car was directly detrimental to their health.

Smoking in cars can also lead the drivers to being pursued in the courts as well for compensation to be paid to people outside of the car, in some cases for car accident claims should the scenario of an accident arise.

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