Wales is slated to become the first country in Europe to ban drivers from smoking with children in their car. Labor leaders in the Welsh Assembly are considering a new law barring cigarettes in cars carrying anyone under 18. The move could see a driver who legally lights up in England face criminal charges if they keep smoking over the border in Wales.
Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones said, “We will not shy away from considering legislation to further protect children from second-hand smoke. Children are particularly at risk from second-hand smoke, especially in vehicles where there is a confined space. We will mount a renewed campaign to tackle smoking alongside other interventions such as quit programs. But we will consider pursuing legislative options if children's exposure to second-hand smoke does not start to fall within three years.” He added that the Assembly would hold talks with police chiefs to see how to enforce legislation.
The proposal was backed by the British Medical Association. Dr Mark Temple, chairman of the BMA’s Welsh Committee for Public Health Medicine and Community Health said, “It's obvious we should ban it, it's an excellent public health measure. The Welsh Government has consistently shown a willingness to tackle big business to protect public health.”
Also speaking at the conference, London-based Dr Douglas Noble said smoking in a car was more damaging than breathing in exhaust fumes. He said, “In cars, particle concentrations are 27 times higher than in a smoker’s home and 20 times higher than in a pub, in the days when you could smoke in public places. It would be safer to have your exhaust pipe on the inside of your car than smoke cigarettes in terms of fine particular matter released.”
Wales’ chief medical officer Dr Tony Jewell, said, “What we’re concerned about is protecting children so the focus of this is protecting children from secondhand smoke. We know that 86% of children don’t want to be in a car with smokers and 75% of the population agree with a smoking ban so we think there is public acceptance that this is damaging to children.”
Tanya Buchanan, of anti-smoking group ASH, said, “We are pleased by the announcement. We know children are particularly susceptible to the damaging health effects of second-hand smoke. There is strong public support for such a ban with four out of five adults behind this move.”
But motoring organization the AA warned the plans could spark confusion among drivers who cross the border daily. A spokesman said, “It sounds like another hare-brained scheme. It would cause confusion and be very difficult to enforce.” He warned it could cause accidents if addicts were not allowed to smoke - increasing their anxiety and nervousness. Tory MP David Davies, whose Monmouth constituency sits on the border, said, “It's reaching the stage where smokers are being victimized and that can't be right.”