Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Smoke-free cars in Wales

Legislation is better than education in achieving smoke-free vehicles for children

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 28 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1420
  1. George Thomson, senior research fellow1,
  2. Nick Wilson, associate professor1
  1. 1Department of Public Health, Te Tari Hauora Tumatanui, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand
  1. george.thomson{at}

The Welsh Assembly should be congratulated for acting to protect children from the hazard of smoking in cars.1 Social marketing will probably help shift societal norms around this matter. However, it would probably be more effective, and more cost effective, to use legislation (as in Canadian, Australian, and some American jurisdictions). In fact, to correct a small part of the news item, smoke-free cars with children are already required in some Australian states (rather than coming into force in May 2012).

Education campaigns can mean that large numbers of children, especially those in low income families, are not protected. In New Zealand in 2008, 27% of year 10 students (aged about 14 years) reported exposure to secondhand smoke in a private vehicle in the past seven days, unchanged from 2006, despite a smoke-free cars campaign in the media since 2005.2 3 It is particularly unfortunate that the assembly chose not to take the legislation route considering a large British survey in 2009 found that 76% of the public supported a smoke-free car law.4 Why are legislators so afraid of using laws to protect children from this hazard?


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1420


  • Competing interests: None declared.


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