Time to make smoking around children a thing of the past
Ahead of a committee vote this morning on a Bill preventing smoking in cars with children present, Labour's Shadow Health Minister explains why the "simple and straightforward" measure is needed.
Today a Committee of MPs will vote on secondary regulations to ban smoking in cars with children present, which was proposed by Labour last year. This puts us within touching distance of a precious victory for children.
According to the British Lung Foundation, nearly half a million children are exposed to potentially toxic levels of smoke in cars every single week. A single cigarette in a car can create concentrations of smoke many times greater than those in a smoky pub of old. Banning smoking in vehicles with children present will help protect them from the misery of smoking-related diseases including cancer, asthma and emphysema.
It has been over a year since Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of Labour’s proposal to ban smoking in cars with children. It is rare for any policy to enjoy support from MPs of all political parties as this one has and I hope that today we take the next step in the process to make it a reality.
There are some who consider such a ban to be an infringement of their liberties. These are often the same voices who decried the ban on smoking in public places, and who before that opposed the ban on smoking on planes, in cinemas and on public transport. Yet with each step forward, public opinion has shifted and now these measures are widely accepted as normal. I am in no doubt that when a ban on smoking in cars with children is enacted, there will be very few who would want to reverse the decision.
If adults wish to smoke when children are not present in the vehicle, then that is their choice. However, what the Committee is debating today, though, is not a question of adult choice, but one of child protection. We know beyond doubt that passive smoking in an enclosed space can do serious harm to a person’s health and that hundreds of thousands of children are being subjected to passive smoking in a car every single week.
This is a simple and straightforward measure for young people who largely do not have a choice and do not have a voice. I’ve been struck by the messages I’ve received from children who want us to pass this law and who in 20 years’ time, I am sure, will wonder how it was ever allowed in the first place.
For these reasons, and in the interests of hundreds of thousands of children, I hope the Committee approves these regulations today. We must press ahead without a delay to ensure that smoking in cars with children present becomes a thing of the past.
Luciana Berger is MP for Liverpool Wavertree and Shadow Minister for Public Health