The House of Commons have voted in favour of an amendment to the Children and Families Bill 2013 by a convincing majority of 269. The amendment powers the government to make it a criminal offence to smoke in cars carrying children, although this does not imply anybody is obliged to avoid doing so yet. In fact, all it means is that Health Minister Jeremy Hunt now has the power to bring in the ban, yet the government still seems largely undecided. As such David Cameron allowed members of his party to vote freely on the move.
The basis for banning smoking in cars carrying children
Research has illustrated quite conclusively that passive smoking is damaging to children’s lungs. Research published in 2009 shows that a cigarette smoked in the confines of a stationary car can produce levels of second-hand smoke 11 times greater than that found in smoky bars prior to the smoking ban. However, it should be noted that if the car were in motion with the window open, second-hand toxins would be reduced to levels significantly lower than when stationary.
It is apparent that smoking is becoming increasingly less socially acceptable. Everything from prominent health warnings, to the smoking ban in 2007, seems designed to push the perception of smoking away from being considered ‘normal’ behaviour.
Reactions to the amendment
Shadow Health Minister, Luciana Berger, reflected her party’s general view of the amendment by proclaiming it a ‘great victory’ for children, and that the move would ‘benefit hundreds of thousands of young people across the country’.
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, states in an interview with the BBC that while he feels that smoking in a car with a child present is a ‘stupid thing to do’, he does not believe that a law must always be passed ‘to fix things you don’t like’. This is similar to the line that pro-smoking group FOREST are taking, whose Director Simon Clark has stated a preference for ‘education, not legislation’.
Marketing manager at Motors.co.uk, Stephen Jury, said “this proposed ban could have serious implications for anyone thinking of making long-haul car trips with the family. Parents who light up in the car when the kids are present will now have to think twice about continuing with the habit.”