Car Smoking: MPs Set To Vote On Ban When Children Present
MPs are set to vote later on whether to back a ban on smoking in cars when children are present.If the Commons backs the amendment to the Children and Families Bill, it will give the Health Secretary the power to bring in a ban in England.
But it would not immediately mean a change in the law.
Last week, more than 700 health experts wrote an open letter to MPs urging them to back the measure. It followed a vote in the Lords narrowly backing a ban.
The amendment empowers, but does not compel, the government to make it a criminal offence for drivers to fail to prevent smoking in their vehicles when children are present.
The government has told its MPs that they can have a free vote on the issue.
Labour has said that if the measure does not become law before the next election, it will be included in its manifesto.
‘Line the state shouldn’t cross’
In their letter, published in the British Medical Journal last week, the respiratory health experts argued that exposure to second-hand smoke is a “major cause of ill-health in children”, particularly among the most disadvantaged groups.
It says smoking in cars exposes children to particularly “high amounts of tobacco smoke” and there is now a consensus that children should be protected from such unnecessary hazards.
It also says there are precedents to a ban, including laws to require people to wear seatbelts and, more recently, the ban on mobile phones while driving.
Bans on smoking in cars carrying children already exist in countries including Australia, Canada, South Africa and the US.
Simon Clark, director of smokers’ lobby group Forest, said smoking in cars with children was “inconsiderate”, but there was “a line the state shouldn’t cross when it comes to dictating how people behave in private places”.
He urged MPs to reject the amendment.
In Wales, the government has said it would consider a ban if an awareness campaign did not lead to a drop in children’s exposure to second-hand smoke.
In Scotland, Liberal Democrat MSP Jim Hume has indicated he will be presenting a bill this year to bring in a ban, while Northern Ireland’s health minister has announced plans for a consultation on the issue.