A new law has recently been passed by the House of Lords which empowers the government to ban smoking in cars and other vehicles with children present. The amendment to the Children and Families Bill was brought forward by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Lord Faulkner and Baroness Hughes.
It does not compel the government, however, merely allows them to make that legal change in the future.
Some people are arguing that a privately owned vehicle should not be subject to the same sort of legislation as the smoking ban currently exposits, such as a ban on smoking in vehicles used for work. Conservative peer Lord Cormack argued that any law which “brings the state into the private space of individuals is to be deplored”.
But Lord Hunt said: “I was very surprised by research that has been identified by the British Lung Foundation, which shows that a single cigarette smoked in a moving car with a window half open exposes a child in the centre of a backseat to around two-thirds as much second-hand smoke as in an average smoke-filled pub of days gone by.”
“For one for me is the need for child protection. Unlike most adults, children lack the freedom to decide when and how to travel, they lack the authority most adults have to ask people not to smoke in their company.
“And in those circumstances I think it is right for Parliament to step in to protect children.”
There is no question that such a ban would bring to the public attention the dangers of smoking around children, however it has been described by some MPs as a ‘blunt instrument’ and that the way forward is ‘education, not legislation’.
While I tend to agree personally, I’m also aware that outright making the action illegal is a positive step, and that anyone who decides to flout such a ban really needs to rethink their priorities. Endangering a child to prove a point is bull-headed childishness and such people deserve a punishment. Hopefully an outright ban will make people consider that for themselves.
It’s unclear whether this ban will cover the use of electronic cigarettes as yet. The current argument is over carcinogens in second-hand tobacco smoke and the harm it causes, whereas to stretch that to second-hand e-cig vapour seems moot, since there would then have to be a ban on smoke-machines and hazers in theatres and such, possibly on asthma inhalers for children and a number of other things.
Time will tell, but so far the possibility of this legislation seems like a good first step to reducing harm to children from smoking.
The Labour Party have said that if this is not written into law by the election they will add it to their manifesto.