By Tony Grew - 23rd July 2012
The House of Lords has approved the Third Reading of a Private Members’ Bill that seeks to ban smoking in cars when children are present.
Lord Ribeiro’s Bill protects children from the effects of second-hand smoking, in the same way that legislation exists to protect children through the appropriate use of car seats for those under the age of 14.
"Children are particularly vulnerable to second-hand smoke, as their smaller lungs, faster breathing and less developed immune systems make them more susceptible to respiratory and ear infections triggered by passive smoking," he told Central Lobby.
"The purpose of this Bill is to protect our future generations from the harm of breathing in other people’s smoke."
The Bill seeks to amend the Health Act 2006 by banning smoking in cars where children are present and to provide further education and awareness of the dangers of smoking through the provision of smoke-free awareness courses in place of a fine for first offenders.
Lord Ribeiro, a former President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said the purpose of the Bill is to educate and inform rather than punish people.
The British Lung Foundation is backing Lord Ribeiro’s Bill.
Caroline Stevens, BLF’s Interim Chief Operating Officer, said: "We feel that legislation is crucial in helping ensure children are protected from the proven dangers of second-hand smoke in cars.
"Our campaign for legislation has been supported by health and children’s charities, healthcare professionals, thousands of members of the public, and now the House of Lords. We hope that what follows will be a full debate in the House of Commons, where cross-party support is built on in order to finally achieve legislation on this critical issue."
According to BLF, second-hand smoke results each year in more than 165,000 new episodes of disease amongst children, 300,000 primary care consultations, 9,500 hospital admissions and around 40 sudden infant deaths.
Members of the public are protected by smoke-free legislation in public transport and in work vehicles but children remain exposed to high concentrations of second-hand smoke when confined in family cars.
The Department for Health has said that legislation is not the most effective way to encourage people to change their behaviour and stressed its plans to reduce smoking rates by encouraging smokers to quit for good.