News & Comment

Forest slams proposal to ban smoking in cars

Fri 8th July, 2011

'I wouldn’t encourage anyone to light a cigarette in a car with children, out of courtesy if nothing else, but a ban is out of all proportion to the problem."

Writing in The Times, Simon Clark, director of Forest, went on:

"I wouldn’t encourage anyone to light a cigarette in a car with children, out of courtesy if nothing else, but a ban is out of all proportion to the problem.

"According to a survey last year of 1,000 adult smokers, 85.3 per cent said that they would not smoke in a car if a child was present. A further 6.5 per cent said that they would ask before lighting up, and only 8.2 per cent said that they would smoke as normal.

"What this tells me is the vast majority of smokers have changed their behaviour voluntarily, without government intervention. So why do we need another law that even its supporters accept would be difficult to enforce? Education has to be better than coercion.

"Legislation is justified, we are told, because of the serious harm caused by 'passive smoking'. Speaking at the BMA conference in Cardiff last week, Douglas Noble, a public health doctor, argued: 'It would be safer to have your exhaust pipe on the inside of your car'. What nonsense. Sadly, it is typical of the myths and hyperbole we have come to expect from the militant anti-smoking brigade.

"Another claim, often repeated, is that second-hand smoke is '23 times more toxic in a vehicle than in a home'. Yet last year an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal stated that there is no scientific evidence to support this argument. 'In [an] exhaustive search of the relevant literature, we failed to locate any scientific source for this comparison,' Ross MacKenzie, of the School of Public Health at Sydney University, said.

"Others have described smoking in a car with children as child abuse. The entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne wants children to be able to report parents who smoke in a car to the police. He also believes that it should be illegal to smoke at home in front of children. The only way that this could be enforced is for neighbours, family members or even the children to go to the police or social services. Is that the type of over-regulated, curtain-twitching society we want Britain to become?

"Significantly, campaigners aren’t satisfied with banning smoking in cars with children. Just as smoking is banned in every pub and private members’ club, the BMA wants a ban on smoking in all cars, regardless of who is in them. In other words, individuals would be prohibited from smoking even if they were the only person in the vehicle. How can that be justified, and is the Government really going to waste police time enforcing such an illiberal, spiteful law?

"Grasping at straws, campaigners argue that smoking while driving is a threat to other road users. Large international studies show that smoking while driving is one of the least distracting activities in which a driver can engage. Far more distracting are chatting with passengers, outside activity, changing a CD or tuning the radio. Should we ban those as well?

"Banning smoking in a private vehicle, with or without children, is an unnecessary infringement of people’s civil liberties. The Government, and the BMA, should butt out."

Source: The Times (8 July 2011)

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