Ban smoking in cars urges BMA

The British Medical Association is calling for a ban on smoking in all cars. The BMA says research shows levels of toxins in a car after a cigarette has been smoked are up to 23 times higher than they would be in a smoky bar.

The research released on Wednesday by the BMA said that the confined environment in automobiles exposes drivers and passengers to higher amounts of toxins than a smoky bar. Children are especially vulnerable to second-hand smoke since their bodies absorb more pollutants. “Tobacco smoke contains 4,000 known chemicals, 69 of which are known or probable carcinogens,” according to the 19-page report. Experts estimate that 23 children and 4,000 adults die in Britain every year because of the health effects of secondhand smoke.

“Smoking in enclosed spaces is especially dangerous,” Dr. Jonathan Whiteson, director of the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation and wellness center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, told CBS News. “Outdoors, smoke gets carried away on the breeze - one puff and it goes away.” But in a car, he said, the smoke is recycled. What's more, he said, toxic residue from cigarette smoke can linger on surfaces even after the air has cleared.

Till date Australia, Canada, and parts of the U.S. have already banned smoking in cars when kids are present. In the U.K., smoking in public vehicles like buses and trains is banned, but there is no law against smoking in private cars.

The harmful effects of smoking are many including heart disease and stroke as well as numerous forms of cancer. In the U.S., smoking causes an estimated 443,000 deaths a year - more than HIV/AIDS, illegal drug use, alcohol abuse, automobile accidents, suicides, and murders combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Smoking rates in Britain are a little higher than they are in the U.S. (the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 20.6% of Americans were smokers in 2009). According to the BMA, 21% of adults in England are smokers, along with 23% of adults in Wales, 24% of adults in Scotland and 24% of adults in Ireland. Three out of 10 smokers say they sometimes have a cigarette while driving.

The report notes that the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Assn. (which represents the British tobacco industry) is opposed to a complete ban. They prefer that discussion of health risks focus on issues related to distracted driving, not secondhand smoke.

Dr. Vivienne Nathanson of the association said Wednesday that the government should now take a “bold and courageous step.” Speaking of infringement on individual rights, “That is for the ethicists and lawyers to discuss,” Dr. Whiteson said. “But whatever we can do to raise awareness of the dangers of smoking and limit space where people can smoke, the better.” The BMA’s Board of Science is moving for this ban as part of its overall effort to “achieve a tobacco-free society by 2035.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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