A CHARITY will today call on people to pledge their support for a smoking ban in all private cars carrying children. The British Lung Foundation Wales has promised to redouble its efforts to campaign for an extension to the current smoking ban in a bid to protect children’s lungs. The campaign follows Wales’ chief medical officer Dr Tony Jewell’s support for further restrictions on smoking – he is the first CMO in the UK to call for such a ban.
He said a ban on smoking in cars and homes would be the “final piece of the protection picture”.
And Dr Jewell added: “The current smoke-free regulations in Wales do not apply to private vehicles, but the Assembly Government should consider how it could do more to protect people from second-hand smoke – such as restrictions on smoking in cars, particularly where children are present.
“We should also encourage parents to implement smoke-free policies in their homes.”
Recent research, published in the influential medical journal The Lancet, highlighted the damaging effects of second- hand smoke on children’s health.
The research showed 40% of children worldwide are exposed to passive smoke each year, causing 165,000 deaths.
One in 10 children in Wales has asthma, which can be linked to passive smoking. This is one of the highest asthma rates in the world.
Chris Mulholland, head of British Lung Foundation Wales, said: “Smoking just one cigarette, even with the car window open, creates a greater concentration of second-hand smoke than a whole evening’s smoking in a pub or a bar.
“Worse still, children’s lungs are more vulnerable to damage than an adult’s, as their immune system is not fully developed.
“Protecting our children must be top priority. They should not be forced to smoke.
“A ban on smoking in the car with children would prevent some of the 22,000 new cases each year of asthma, caused as a direct result of passive smoking.
“This overwhelming evidence and public support can no longer be ignored.”
The current ban on smoking in public places covers all work vehicles, including taxis, but it does not apply to domestic vehicles. Bans on smoking in cars carrying children are already in place in parts of the US, Australia and in Puerto Rico. In Ontario, Canada, drivers face fines of up to $250 for smoking in cars with children under 16.
An online BLF petition – www.lunguk.org – has already collected thousands of signatures calling on UK governments to protect children’s health by introducing a ban.
Dame Judi Dench, Barbara McQueen, widow of the movie legend Steve McQueen, and Who Wants to be a Millionaire quizmaster Chris Tarrant have all signed the petition.
A poll by website mumsnet earlier this year found more than 85% of parents across the UK were supportive of a ban on smoking in cars.
In Wales the results showed 88% were in favour, and among smokers, 47% said they supported the idea of a ban.
But the survey, which was commissioned by the BLF also found 13% of parents, who are current smokers, had smoked in front of their children believing there isn’t any impact on their children.
The Royal College of Physicians has also called for a ban on smoking in cars carrying children.
Ms Mulholland said: “Wales has shown it can lead the way in protecting people’s health from the damaging effects of smoke – we were the first country in the UK to vote for the ban on smoking in public places.
“Let’s show the way again by calling for more protection for little lungs.”