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RCP calls for ban on smoking in cars


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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Readers' comments (15)

  • I smoke, have never smoked with my children in the car, I have never had an accident or a near miss while having a smoke in my car. You don't hear in the news of fatal road accidents where the driver caused the accident because he/she was smoking. I am sorry but there are far more dangerous activities that people do in cars that cause accidents, the powers that be haven't stopped people from using mobile phones while driving. You see ladies putting on makeup while driving, you see kids not strapped in and climbing over the parcel shelf. This smacks of yet another nanny state demand. I appreciate that there are some smokers who do smoke with their children in their car, but I am fed up of being told when and where I can have a ciggie.

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  • About time too. I am amazed this hasn't been put forward before now. It might be seen as a nanny state thing to do but sadly selfish people need to be nannied. They are just children who haven't grown up I'm afraid so need the same handling. Anything that hampers the health against the will of another shouldn't be allowed. Passive smoking comes into that category. My daughter and I witnessed a serious RTA caused by the male driver lighting up. Him and his faultless partner ended up trapped in their upside down vechicle. A split seconds distraction can cost lives so it is no excuse to point the finger at other reasons for accidents. Take responsibility for your own. Any deterent for risky activities has got to be a good thing. Besides, smokers are costing the health service millions by doing something they know is a serious health risk to themselves and others. No win situation human rights or not. Oh, and I'm not sorry for my opinion.

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  • Parents know best

    I'm afraid that the proposal to ban smoking in cars occupied by children represents an
    unwarranted intrusion into the privacy and autonomy of parenthood. The autonomy to
    make one's own decision about risks to subject a child to is not to be interfered with lightly.
    It should only be done in cases where there is a substantial threat of severe harm
    to the child. Interfering with parental autonomy in a case where there is only minor
    risk involved is unwarranted.

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  • Anonymous 12:43, do you not turn your car radio down/up or change the channel? perhaps we should ban car radios too, at least people would hear ambulances coming then I guess. all I am saying is that if I don't have others in the car, by having a smoke I am not putting anyone at any more risk than if I took my eye off the road for a moment to change radio channel. I am not trivialising I work in the ED and am only too aware of what can happen from RTC's but I think there are far more dangerous causes of accidents. You are right each and everyone of us needs to take responsibility for our own failings, I guess we are not all perfect.

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  • About bloody time! But it doesn't go far enough. In my opinion they should call for an all out ban. Simply make it illegal to sell them, buy them or smoke them.

    I remember being subjected to cigarette smoke in the car and in my home as a child by selfish parents and their friends who lit up without a thought or a care for anyone else. It DID affect my health, I developed asthma and still suffer from recurrent chest infections now. It is a disgusting, horrible and selfish habit and those idiots who continue to smoke should be either criminalised by making them illegal, or refused treatment on the NHS for a self inflicted illness.

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  • Of course trying to light a cigarette when you are moving is dangerous. The danger of smoking when driving is debatable when you see the other distractions such as tuning the radio or eating a sandwich. I agree that smoking when children are present is wrong but I see no need to get out of the car to smoke if you are parked up and no one else is in the car.
    Why a blanket ban and not just a ban on smoking when children are present?
    As for the connection between smoking in the car and asthma I would need to see the evidence of the studies as I cannot take anything the anti-smoking lobby say at face value any more.

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  • Car - very small confined space - proven passive smoking research - not rocket science. Thomas with respect if all parents knew best: 1. there would be no need for social services intervention and 2. smokers are killing themselves so why would we automatically expect them to be responsible with their children's health on this issue? To imply that smoking in a car with children is a 'minor risk' is irresponsible.

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  • Anonymous | 24-Mar-2010 8:46 pm

    1. There is a whole load of clinical evidence showing the damage smoking does to you.

    2. There is a whole load of clinical evidence showing the damage PASSIVE smoking does to you.

    If you breath in cigarette smoke, regardless of what idiot is holding the cigarette, it will damage you, like the person above me said it is not rocket science to try and figure this out is it?

    3. For smoking in the car, read smoking in ANY CONFINED SPACE!!!!!!!!!!!!

    4. There is no reason other than the sheer greed of the government and the tobacco companies that this disgusting, selfish and irresponsible habit should not have a blanket ban and be made illegal now.

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  • Mike - nice to see you agree with me on something after all. I'm the one duelling with you on the sexualising of nurses post. That's if you are the same Mike of course!!!

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  • That is me anonymous, and yes some things we can agree on! I hope this doesn't stop any future debates though I was enjoying that! haha!

    Seriously though I think this is one of the extremely few areas where I find it impossible to respect the opinions of those on the other side of this argument.

    Smoking is a disgusting, selfish habit and should be made illegal.

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