FYLDE coast health bosses have given their backing to calls by top doctors to ban smoking in cars.
The British Medical Association is urging ministers to outlaw lighting up in private vehicles to protect people’s health.
According to the leading medical organisation, evidences suggests smoking in cars exposes drivers and passengers to harmful chemicals – up to 23 times more than in a smoky bar – with children and the elderly particularly at risk.
Children absorb more pollutants than adults and their immature immune systems are less able to cope with the effects of second-hand smoke, the BMA claims.
Blackpool’s director of public health Dr Arif Rajpura welcomes the call for ministers to bring in the “bold and courageous” move.
He said: “I would wholeheartedly endorse this. It is really important to protect other people from second-hand smoke, especially children.
“If you think about a car, it is a really confined space. This has the potential to have a more detrimental effect on children. And children are those who have the least say.”
Dr Rajpura said the existing ban on smoking in all enclosed public places had already made a big difference.
“Research has been carried out in Scotland, where this has been in place longer, so they are ahead of us as it were. It has absolutely made a difference. There has been a reduction in the number of heart attacks.
“And there was a school of thought that people would smoke more in the home after smoking in public places was stopped – leading to an increase in childhood asthma. But there has been a reduction in childhood asthma.
“It seems what has happened is, a lot of people have taken the smoking ban as an opportunity to give up smoking. This move would be an extension of that.”
And Jane Roberts, head of tobacco control with NHS Blackpool, said she “absolutely welcomed” the report by the BMA and second reading of a Members Bill, calling for a smoking ban in private vehicles when children are present.
“I am delighted to see this issue receiving so much attention.
“Parents will do anything to protect their children from any risk, but this does not seem to be the case with second-hand smoke.
“That’s where we – and by we, I mean the NHS and health educators like myself, have been failing – to let parents know just how harmful it is.
“We need to get those two messages through – second-hand smoke is harmful to children and smoking in cars is a bad idea.
“The Department of Health will be doing some work in a campaign in the spring, focusing on the dangers of smoking in the car and the home.
“Before you can make something like smoking in cars illegal, you have to have acceptance. Children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to develop chest infections, asthma, glue ear. Children end up in hospital through second-hand smoke.
“A car is a confined space and just opening a window is no good, because not all the chemicals are gaseous. They stay on the material and surfaces for the next person to breathe in.”
But not everyone supports the call, which has the backing of charities including Asthma UK and the British Heart Foundation.
Fylde MEP, Paul Nuttall, slammed the proposal as draconian, branding it “a step too far.”
He accused the BMA of “abusing facts” to “bully the Government” into introducing a ban.
The deputy leader of UKIP said: “The key argument the BMA is using is ‘the restrictive internal environment in motor vehicles exposes drivers and passengers to 23 times more toxins than a smoky bar.’
“Anybody who has any claim to be interested in scientific evidence – and one hopes an organisation like the BMA should be interested in scientific evidence – would know this statistic is derived from a tiny article in an obscure Canadian newspaper. It was never scientific, but merely the expression of rage on the part of an anti-smoking campaigner.
“The proposed ban would be an outrageous infringement of civil liberties.
“Not only would it be wrong, it would be impossible to police.
“Nobody would encourage people to smoke and no one thinks forcing children to breathe your smoke is wise. But there are such things as car windows.”
And smokers’ pro-choice lobby group Forest also strongly opposed the move, saying legislation would be a “gross over-reaction.”
Director Simon Clark said: “There is no justification for a ban on smoking in cars, with or without children present.
“We don’t condone smoking in cars with children.
“It’s inconsiderate, certainly, but only a small minority of people do so these days.”