It has been announced by the government that it will be a criminal offence to smoke in cars in England when children are passengers. MPs voted in favour of an amendment to the Children and Families Bill, which empowers, but does not compel, ministers to bring in a ban in England. Welsh ministers must now decide if they want to make smoking in cars carrying children illegal in Wales.
Shadow Public Health Minister Luciana Berger said "this is a great victory for child health, which will benefit hundreds of thousands of young people across our country. It is a matter of child protection, not adult choice. The will of Parliament has been clearly expressed and this must be respected. Ministers now have a duty to bring forward regulations so that we can make this measure a reality and put protections for children in place as soon as possible."
The health risks associated with smoking in cars are high, second-hand smoke contains more than four thousand chemicals, some of which are known to cause cancer. Exposure has been strongly linked to chest infections, asthma, ear problems and cot death in children.
Research shows that smoke can stay in the air for up to two and half hours even with a window open and smoking in a car creates a higher concentration of toxins than in a bar. Some research has put it at eleven times higher. Research also indicates that approximately three hundred thousand children in the UK visit a GP each year because of the effects of second-hand smoke, with nine thousand five hundred going to hospital.
Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said "having campaigned on this issue for many years, we're absolutely delighted that MPs have backed the ban on smoking in cars carrying children. This could prove a great leap forward for the health of our nation's children."
Not everyone is of the same opinion, 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".
So what do you think? Should the ban go ahead? Do you want the government making decisions whether you can smoke or not in your car, or is it time that children do get protected?