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British Medical Association Seeks to Ban Smoking in Cars

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Smoke-Free Cars Healthy Kids!The British Medical Association (BMA) is calling for a ban on smoking in all cars in the United Kingdom, citing the dangers of secondhand smoke for passengers and the hazards of distracted driving for everyone on the road.

Agence France-Presse reports in the National Post that children and the elderly are most in need of protection from secondhand smoke, because they often have no way to refuse a ride in a smoky car. BMA said research shows that toxins from cigarette smoke in cars can be 23 times worse than in a smoky bar.

Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights writes:

Additionally, the gaseous and particulate components of tobacco smoke absorb into the upholstery and other surfaces inside a car, and then off-gas back into the air over the course of many days, exposing passengers to toxins long after anyone actually smoked in the car.

The National Post goes on to report that, in Britain, about 4,000 adults and 23 children die annually because of secondhand smoke. On November 25, the British Parliament is scheduled to debate a bill that would ban smoking in private vehicles where children are present.

Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, writes in the U.K.’s edition of The Huffington Post, that a total ban on smoking in private vehicles is “a welcome recognition by the country’s doctors that this issue should be at the top of the government’s health agenda, and at the British Lung Foundation we support any action that would improve lung health.”

She goes on to say that a blanket ban is a “vast and contentious issue” that would likely take a long time to resolve. A more pragmatic goal — and one that is urgent — she says, would be to get the government to take action to protect children from passive smoke in cars.

According to Wikipedia, in the United States, there are bans on smoking in cars with children in Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, and Oregon. There are similar bans in Puerto Rico, as well as in parts of Australia, parts of Canada, and in Bahrein, and Cyprus. Wikipedia says there are plans to ban smoking in cars where children are present in several other countries as well. And Mauritius has banned smoking in all private cars since 2008.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Karen Kaplan reports that smoking rates in Britain are slightly higher than they are in the U.S., and that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 20.6% of Americans were smokers in 2009. The BMA says that, among adults, 21% in England are smokers, 23% in Wales, 24% in Scotland, and 24% in Ireland, and that three out of every 10 smokers say they sometimes smoke while driving.

In addition to the secondhand smoke concern for children and other passengers, the BMA wants to protect all people on the road from drivers whose smoking is a dangerous distraction. The Los Angeles Times says recent polls show support for the BMA proposal.

Kaplan writes that the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association is opposed to a complete ban, and prefers discussion of health risks to focus on distracted driving rather than secondhand smoke. She reports,

The BMA report describes the tobacco industry’s position like this: ‘The proposal to ban smoking in what is a private space is a step too far and an unwarranted intrusion on individual [freedom].’ To that, the doctors retort: ‘It is important to note, however, that this takes no account of the freedom of other individuals to use the roads safely, and for other individuals to be free from the risks posed by distracted drivers.’

Image by NoButts.org, used under Fair Use: Reporting.

 

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