Smoking in cars when children are present could soon become illegal.
Peers are set to vote on the issue and Labour wants to see the creation of a specific offence claiming the move will help save to lives.
A ban is already in place in parts of the world including some states in America, Australia, Canada and a few countries in Europe.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham says it is time Britain followed suit.
He said: “When it comes to improving the health of children, we are duty bound to consider any measure that might make a difference.
“Adults are free to make their own choices but that often does not apply to children and that’s why society has an obligation to protect them from preventable harm.
“Evidence from other countries shows that stopping smoking in the confined space of a car carrying children can prevent damage to their health and has strong public support.”
But pro-smoking groups think a ban is disproportionate.
They insist most adult smokers choose not to smoke when they are in a car with children.
They are also angry at what they see as a stealth ban, after smoking in enclosed public spaces was made illegal.
They fear the prohibition will eventually be extended into people’s homes.
Simon Clark, director of Forest, said: “I think this legislation is very heavy-handed, totally unnecessary and according to surveys 84% of adults wouldn’t dream of lighting a cigarette in a car, in a small enclosed space with a child present.
“So adults already know how to behave, they don’t need the state interfering in their lives like this. If there are still some people who smoke in a car with children, then lets educate them, but lets not legislate.
“It’s almost going to be impossible to enforce anyway and the danger is that the police will have to ban smoking in all cars.
“We could have a situation were a lone driver, in his own car will be committing an offence by lighting a cigarette and what’s the next logical step after that? Are we going to ban smoking in the home as well if children are present.”
According to supporters of the ban there is overwhelming public support.
Labour cites a YouGov poll from 2011 that found 78% of adults in Great Britain agreeing that smoking should be banned in cars carrying children younger than 18 years of age, while 44% agreed that smoking should be banned in all cars.
And to support its case further it quotes a Mumnsnet survey that found 86% of respondents supported a ban (including 83% of smokers).
Some smokers think leaving a window open will protect their younger passengers from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, but that argument has been dismissed by experts.
Professor Robert West , from UCL, has extensively studied the potential dangers of second hand tobacco smoke: “We know that the smoke is toxic, we know that the smoke has carcinogens in it.
“If you imagine someone lighting up a cigarette in a club lets say, you would know about it within seconds the other side of the room. In a car it is a much more confined space.
“If you can smell smoke you are being exposed to carcinogens, so you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that even if you are trying to smoke out the window the child in the back is going to be exposed to carcinogens.”
29 Jan 2014