Labour promises to make smoking in cars a thing of the past

Smokers are set to face a fresh wave of restrictions as the House of Lords prepares to vote on whether to make it an offence for drivers of a private vehicle to smoke when a child is present.

Labour peers Lord Hunt, Lord Faulkner and Baroness Hughes are set to table the amendment to the Children and Families Bill for England. If the measures fail to receive support in the Lords, the Labour party will make a manifesto commitment to introduce the ban.

The plans came in for sharp criticism from pro-smoking group Forest. "Legislation is completely unnecessary. Most adult smokers accept that smoking in a car with children present is inconsiderate and the overwhelming majority choose not to" said director Simon Clark.

Anti-smoking campaigners have consistently called for bans on smoking in cars to protect children from the harmful effects of second hand smoke.

In 2011, the British Medical Association (BMA) claimed that a restrictive environment in motor vehicles could could expose passengers and drivers to toxins 23 times greater than in a smoky bar.

However, the BMA was left somewhat red faced after the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) exposed the 23 times toxic factoid as emerging from an unsourced statistic, cited in the Rocky Mountain News, a Colorado newspaper in 1998.

The CMAJ said:

In a subsequent exhaustive search of the relevant literature, we failed to locate any scientific source for this comparison. Given that the issue of banning smoking in cars is gaining traction internationally, use of this media-friendly tobacco control “fact” presents potential problems of credibility.

Smoking was banned in England in workplaces and most enclosed public spaces in July 2007 following similar legislation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The law prohibited smoking in vehicles used for work.

However, the ban has not had the effect of reducing smoking rates that its champions had claimed.

20 per cent of adults in Great Britain were smokers in 2012, with no change on the previous year. From 2008 to 2012 the rate remained largely unchanged, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The most significant reductions in smoking occurred between 1974 and 2007, when the rate fell from 45 per cent to 21 per cent.