‘Ban smoking in cars’

November 24, 2011, 5:44 PM GMT+0

59% Brits would support ban on smoking in cars carrying passengers; 34% would support total ban

The majority of Brits would support a ban on people smoking in cars with passengers, our poll for the Sunday Times has found. However, only a third of people would support a ban on people smoking in all private cars even if they were not carrying passengers.

When asking the same question but broken down by whether respondents themselves smoked, just under than a third of regular smokers say they would support a ban on smoking with passengers in the car.

  • 59% of the British public would support a ban on people smoking in cars with passengers
  • Just 32% oppose
  • Yet, only 34% would support banning people from smoking in all private cars whether or not they were carrying a passenger

‘Courageous step’

Smoking in public places has been banned in England and Wales since 2007, in Scotland since 2006 and Ireland since 2004, with some now wanting to extend the ban to all vehicles as a measure, proponents say, to try and protect people’s health further.

The issue has been brought to the fore in recent days by a British Medical Association study that claimed that toxins that can be up to 23 times higher in a car than in a pub or bar, and has urged for a ban over health reasons (rather than road safety concerns).

The BMA argues that smoking in cars puts passengers, and especially children, at particular risk from the second-hand smoke and declares that 'we are calling on UK governments to take the bold and courageous step of banning smoking in private vehicles’, reports the BBC.

Doctors in support of the proposals have demanded that children need greater protection from breathing in these toxins, since it is out of their control whether to travel in a smoke-filled vehicle, and the British Lung Foundation agrees and says children are ‘trapped’ in a car with no choice but to ‘breathe in smoke’. Elderly people, who suffer from breathing problems, have also been pinpointed as a group especially at risk of health damage from inhaling smoke passively in a car.

‘A gross over-reaction’

However, critics of the proposals, such as smokers’ lobby group Forest, argue that there is weak evidence for this apparent ‘23-times-higher’ harmful effect of second-hand smoke on car passengers and reports that a subsequent press release from the BMA actually admitted that the figure is likely to be closer to 11 times higher. Forest director Simon Clark has called the suggestion of an outright ban on smoking in vehicles ‘a gross over-reaction’, especially when it comes to situations in which no children or passengers are present. ‘What next, a ban on smoking in the home?’, he asked.

Meanwhile, the Government has also stated opposition to the full extent of the BMA’s recommendations. As an ex-smoker himself, Prime Minister David Cameron has acknowledged the success of public places in banning smoking, but shows concern over applying a similar ban to cars.

‘I am much more nervous about going into what people do inside a vehicle’ he states.

See all survey details and full results here