Poll finds public support for ban on smoking in cars carrying children
Three-quarters of Britons want smoking in cars carrying children to be banned, according to a poll.
Many doctors already support such a ban. Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, last week caused controversy when he said that parents who smoked in front of their young children were "committing a form of child abuse".
A YouGov poll for the UK Faculty of Public Health (FPH) found 74% support for banning anyone from smoking in a car in which children are on board, with 10% against and 11% undecided. The faculty, which represents public health specialists in the NHS, academia and local government, said that although politicians may be concerned about legislating to curb behaviour in "private space", adherence to seatbelt laws shows people would accept it. Second-hand smoke can be 27 times more toxic in a car than a smoker's home, it says in a report published today.
"There's a wealth of medical and public backing for a ban on smoking in cars with children," said Rachael Jolley, the FPH's head of policy. "Attitudes to smoking have changed dramatically."
Professor Mitch Blair from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: "We strongly support the call to ban smoking in cars with children travelling in them to ensure that we protect their health. The public is sending out a strong message in this survey and the government should act on this."
Inhaling secondhand smoke has been linked to chest infections, asthma and ear problems in children and sudden infant death syndrome, or cot death, he added.
However, the government has made clear it will not be implementing any further restrictions on smoking and is considering not enforcing Labour's ban on the public display of cigarettes in shops.
Large majorities of the public also favour other dramatic government moves to improve health, the poll found. Some 82% want the makers of alcoholic drinks to be compelled to list how many units and calories their products contain on the side of every can and bottle, while 78% favour all food manufacturers having to put traffic light-style labels on the packaging to tell people how much far, salt and sugar they contain.
The health secretary, Andrew Lansley, is opposed to such labelling, which is used by some supermarkets. He said: "We need a more effective public health strategy which provides better information and support to the public with new national and local strategies to encourage changes in behaviour. This will reduce the drivers of ill health, including smoking, alcohol misuse, poor diet and lack of exercise."
The Department of Health said: "Most people know about the dangers of passive smoking, particularly with regards to children. It is important parents take responsibility for their children's health."