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A step closer to ending children being exposed to smoking in cars

Laws to protect children in England from tobacco smoke in cars have moved a step closer today, with health campaigners Fresh welcoming a Government consultation (1).


84,000 children are estimated to be exposed to second-hand smoke in the home or car in the North East and Fresh will be responding to the six-week consultation by urging Ministers to press ahead with a law by next year.


The policy which has the backing of the Prime Minister also has wide regional support, after a poll conducted by YouGov in March found that around 85% of North East adults agreed smoking should be banned in cars carrying children under-18.


Over eight hundred children nationwide visit their doctor every day due to the serious effects of second-hand smoke exposure, according to research published by the Royal College of Physicians. In the North East, 13,000 youngsters need hospital or GP treatment every year from breathing in smoke.


Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: "Legislation protecting children from having to breathe-in second-hand smoke in cars would be incredibly popular, and we support it. Children hate adults smoking around them, but do not always have a voice – it is vital they deserve the protection of the law.


"Some people may believe opening a car window will protect their children from the toxic fumes, but cars are confined spaces and this is not effective. Smoke contains poisons like arsenic and it lingers, resulting in thousands of children made ill from breathing in smoke every year."


Smoke puts children at increased risk of lung disease, meningitis and cot death.Treatment, hospital and GP visits for secondhand smoke-related illnesses cost the NHS more than £23.6 million each year with:

- 800 chest infections for under twos
- 4,900 middle ear infections for 0-16yr-olds
- 900 new cases of wheeze & asthma for 0-16 year olds
- 24 cases of bacterial meningitis
- 12,600 children needing to visit the GP
- 400 children needing to go to hospital


More than 80 per cent of secondhand smoke is invisible and odourless, containing harmful cancer-causing toxins and poisons such as arsenic.


Research by the British Lung Foundation has shown that a single cigarette smoked in a moving car with a window half open, exposes a child in the backseat to around two-thirds as much second-hand smoke as in an average smoke-filled pub of yesteryear. These levels increase when the car is static or with the windows closed.


Earlier this year, Parliament approved the measure by a vote of 376 to 107, a majority of 269 – much stronger support than the 2007 smokefree law. 


The vote under the Children and Families Act gave the Government the power to bring in regulations governing smoking in cars with children. 


Consultation documents published today suggest enforcement will be largely taken forward by local police officers in conjunction with their wider functions on road safety. Under existing powers, police officers would be able to request that a vehicle stops if they suspect that an offence is being committed. Local authorities would also be able to enforce the proposed regulations, by authorising officers, but would not have the powers to stop moving vehicles.