Time to stop smoking in Cars?

VCARS SmokingAn address at the Local Government Association Public Health Conference by England’s Health Minister, Anna Soubry, has re-sparked a row over moves to prevent drivers from smoking in their cars.

A former smoker herself, Soubry told delegates:

I would ban smoking in cars where children are present. I see it as a child welfare issue. I think it is something we should at least consider as government.

While banging the public drum, privately Soubry has less conviction. When subsequently asked if she was voicing a new piece of Government policy, she backtracked:

I expressed my own views on smoking in cars and the health threat it causes to children. We have no current plans to change government policy.

While there appears to be growing public support for a ban, the debate strikes at the heart of two interesting questions:

First, if the car is an extension of one’s private space and we accept smoking does not diminish driving ability, what right has the state to impose legislation to curtail smoking?

Second, if we deem smoking in a confined space to be detrimental to the physical welfare of a minor, what are the limits of that confinement? Should smoking within six feet of a minor be made illegal, for example? Children have significantly higher metabolic and respiratory rates than adults, making exposure to smoke in vehicles potentially very serious.

Simon Clark, from the Pro-choice smokers’ group Forest, wheezed:

There is no justification for a ban on smoking in cars, with or without children present. The evidence that it is harmful to other passengers is weak, to say the least. We don’t condone smoking in cars with children. It’s inconsiderate, certainly, but only a small minority of people do so these days. Adults have a choice, and they can choose not to travel in a vehicle if the driver is smoking.

In the UK it has been against the law to smoke in vehicles used for work since July 2007, when the ban on smoking in public was introduced.

While the British Medical Association have been calling for a driving/smoking ban since 2011, and parts of Australia already protect those under 16 from second hand car smoke, David Cameron has confessed to being ‘nervous’ about implementing a ban in the UK.

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