The chairman of the Royal College of Physicians has said he would recommend a ban on smoking in cars after they found links between second-hand smoking outside the home and childhood illness.
The report, published by the RCP, shows that around 22,000 cases of asthma and wheezing in young children occur every year in the UK due to the effects of passive smoking, in addition to 20,000 chest infections, 120,000 cases of middle ear disease and 200 cases of meningitis.
The RCP said passive smoking also leads to the death of 40 babies from sudden death syndrome (SIDs) - around 20% of all SIDs deaths.
As a result, the group has called for a ban on drivers smoking in their vehicles to be introduced.
Professor John Britton, chairman of the RCP’s tobacco advisory group, said legislation to ban smoking in the home would be unenforceable so instead views of “what is acceptable” had to be changed to protect the two million children who live in homes which allow smoking.
But a total ban on smoking in cars and vans would be easier to police than the current situation, which expects enforcement officers to differentiate between business and private vehicles, he said.
“We would recommend a ban on smoking in all vehicles,” he said.
Prof Britton said even drivers who never had child passengers should get out of their cars before lighting up for reasons of road safety.
Current smoke-free legislation is due for review this year and Prof Britton said it was an opportunity to “close remaining gaps”.
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