News

Car users in Wales are being urged not to smoke in vehicles carrying children

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e934 (Published 07 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e934
  1. Roger Dobson
  1. 1Abergavenny

The Welsh Assembly has this week launched a campaign, “Fresh start Wales,” designed to protect children from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

The first minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, says that the Welsh government will consider pursuing a ban on smoking in cars carrying children if exposure to secondhand smoke in cars does not start to fall within the next three years. A survey of health behaviour in schoolchildren indicated that around 20% of 11-16 year olds in Wales were exposed to cigarette smoke the last time they travelled in a car.

“Children are particularly at risk from secondhand smoke, especially in vehicles where a confined space means there is no respite from the harm of the toxic chemicals in cigarettes,” said Tony Jewell, chief medical officer for Wales, who launched the campaign.

“Exposure to these chemicals puts children at risk from a range of conditions, including sudden infant death syndrome and asthma. There is robust evidence that the level of toxic chemicals is very high in cars, even with a window open.”

The campaign urges parents and others to pledge to keep their cars smoke free (www.freshstartwales.co.uk). The first phase of advertising will feature on local radio, billboards, buses, and bus shelters.

Mr Jones said, “If necessary we will not shy away from considering legislation to further protect children from secondhand smoke. A ban on smoking in cars carrying children will be considered later in this five year term of government if smoking levels do not reduce as a result of the campaign.”

Wales, which was the first of the UK nations to vote in favour of a ban on smoking in public places, would be the first to ban it in cars. It is estimated that 23% of adults in Wales smoke.

An analysis by the Welsh Assembly found that a number of other countries or regions already have bans on smoking in cars. In Australia a smoking ban in cars carrying children under 16 will come into force in some states in May 2012.

Nine of Canada’s 10 provinces have banned smoking in private vehicles. In Nova Scotia, the first Canadian province to ban smoking in cars carrying children, the proportion of children exposed to smoke after the ban fell from 29% to 13%.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e934