A couple of weeks ago MPs voted in Parliament to introduce a ban on smoking in cars carrying children from 1st October this year. This was something I strongly supported so was more than happy to write about the subject in my Evening Chronicle column when I was asked to help promote the story by Fresh, a regional organisation here in the North East aligned with NHS Smokefree. I’m sharing my column again on my my blog to help raise more awareness of this vitally important issue for child health.
I’m the kind of non-smoker that smokers must hate – I can’t see the attraction of smoking, I find it genuinely unpleasant, and I welcome anything that makes it more difficult for smokers to do, not least when it might be inflicted on others. That is not to say I don’t appreciate how easy it is for kids to pick up the habit in the first place, or how viciously difficult it is to break that habit once it is started; smokers need a huge amount of self-discipline and support to quit successfully and I applaud those who try because they desperately want to escape its clutches.
However, there are those who continue to wish to smoke, despite the overwhelming evidence of its harmful effects, and that is their choice (something pro-tobacco groups are at great pains to stress). Those who do not have a choice though are the children of smokers, who are suffering in great numbers as a result of their parents’ second-hand smoke. According to the regional Smokefree programme Fresh, 13,000 North East children need hospital or GP treatment every year from breathing in cigarette smoke, as those exposed are at increased risk of lung disease, meningitis, and sudden infant death, among other conditions.
Of course this is not a case of parents deliberately wanting to harm their children – more likely it is a lack of understanding of the very real dangers being posed, even when parents feel they are taking precautions to limit their children’s exposure. The prime example of this is smoking in the car with children present, which will be banned completely through new legislation which comes into effect on 1st October.
Even with the window open, which in reality makes little difference to the amount of smoke circulating in such a confined space, having a cigarette in the car can result in concentrations of toxins up to 11 times higher than you used to find in the average smoky pub prior to the public smoking ban. Blowing the visible smoke out the window does not prevent the invisible, odourless chemicals from making their way straight into the little lungs in the back seat.
The argument that an outright ban is one step too far is not a valid one – children need protecting from harm, and legislation may be the only way to do that. You wouldn’t drive without your child being safely restrained (also illegal), so why should smoking be any different?
Find support to quit at www.nhs.uk/Smokefree