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Ban smoking in cars to save children, say doctors

child-in-smoke-filled-carLast upated: March 25, 2010

Source: The Mail Online

Smoking should be banned in all cars to save children from the health dangers caused by passive inhalation, says a report from the Royal College of Physicians.

Doctors are calling for urgent action after figures revealed passive smoking triggers 22,000 cases of asthma and wheezing in children every year.

Around 9,500 hospital admissions among children are linked to the effects of secondhand smoke inside and outside the family home, says the report, which analysed existing research.

Forty babies die from sudden infant death syndrome every year caused by passive smoking – one in five of all such deaths.

At least two million children are exposed to secondhand smoke in the home along with ‘avoidable’ health risks, says the report.

Professor John Britton, chairman of the Royal College’s tobacco advisory group, said legislation to ban smoking in the home would be unenforceable.

But society’s views about the ‘ acceptability’ of smoking must be changed and the easiest way to do this is a blanket ban in cars and vans, he said.

This would be simpler to police than the current situation which expects enforcement officers to differentiate between business vehicles, where smoking is banned, and those owned privately.

Professor Britton said: ‘We would recommend a ban on smoking in all vehicles.’

In addition the ban on smoking in enclosed spaces should be extended to parks, playgrounds and other areas where children congregate, he went on.

Richard Ashcroft, a professor of bioethics at Queen Mary, University of London – who contributed to the report – said even parked drivers who never have child passengers should get out of their cars before lighting up.

This would not be a ‘significant reduction’ in their liberties, he argued.

However, Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest, said: ‘We wouldn’t encourage people to smoke around children but adults should be allowed to use their common sense.

‘These proposals go way beyond what is acceptable in a free society.’

Professor Terence Stephenson, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said it had already demanded a ban on smoking in cars with children travelling in them.

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘By increasing the level of awareness of the harmfulness of secondhand smoke, we will encourage people to voluntarily make their homes and cars smoke free.”

Written by Jenny Hope

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