From Featuring Dr Chris Steele MBE

Doctors call for smoking ban in cars

Children and elderly at higher risk from second-hand smoke

Smoking in cars should be banned to protect people from the dangers of second-hand smoke, the British Medical Association has said.

The BMA says there is now "strong evidence" that smoking in cars and other vehicles exposes its occupants to very high levels of second-hand smoke.

The confined space inside a car means that the driver and passengers are exposed to 23 times more toxins than a smoky bar, the BMA said in a briefing paper.

Children are particularly at risk from second-hand smoke in cars as they absorb more pollutants. Their immune systems are not fully developed, and so are less able to protect them from the harm caused by second-hand smoke.

Elderly people are also at higher risk as they are prone to respiratory problems which can be exacerbated by inhaling second-hand smoke.

And both children and the elderly may not be able to refuse to take a journey in a smoky car.

The briefing paper has been published to coincide with the second reading of Alex Cunningham Private Members' Bill calling for a ban on smoking in private vehicles when children are present.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's director of professional activities, said: "Every year in England there are over 80,000 deaths that are caused by smoking. This figure increases to a shocking six million worldwide.

"But behind the stark statistics, doctors see the individual cases of ill-health and premature death caused by smoking and second-hand smoke. For this reason, doctors are committed to reducing the harm caused by tobacco.

"The UK made a huge step forward in the fight against tobacco by banning smoking in all enclosed public places but more can still be done.

"We are calling on UK governments to take the bold and courageous step of banning smoking in private vehicles. The evidence for extending the smoke-free legislation is compelling.

"The current UK Government prefers voluntary measures or 'nudging' to bring about public health change but this stance has been shown to fail time and time again."

The Bill is also supported by the British Heart Foundation (BHF). Maura Gillespie, head of policy and advocacy at the BHF, said: "Passengers in smoke filled cars, including children, breathe in more pollutants than anywhere else.

"There is already clear evidence that passive smoking increases the risk of a number of serious health problems. Children especially need to be protected from the damaging effects of other people smoking in cars.

"All governments across the UK should consider what measures can be taken to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke in cars. We would, of course, support any legislation that protects our kids from adults' lethal habits."

This article was published on Wed 16 November 2011