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Doctors Call for Ban on Smoking in Cars to Protect Children

Posted on the 16 November 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Doctors call for ban on smoking in cars to protect children

Photo credit: SuperFantastic,

The British Medical Association (BMA) has called for a ban on smoking in cars after a research review revealed drivers and passengers are exposed to 23 times more toxins than in a smoke-filled bar. While some commentators feel the health risks make a ban necessary, others say such a move would be the Nanny State gone mad. Who’s right?

Won’t somebody think of the children? One of the strongest arguments for a ban on smoking in cars is that it would protect children from second-hand smoke. Denis Campbell reported in The Guardian that the British Lung Foundation supports the idea because children “are literally trapped in the car and have no choice but to breathe in smoke”. Indeed,  Campbell wrote, “opinion polls show widespread support for banning smoking in cars carrying children”. However, Campbell also said that MPs feel a ban only on smoking in cars with children would be difficult to enforce and wouldn’t help adult drivers and passengers.

But adult smokers don’t need help. Writing on The Spectator Coffee House Blog, Melanie Donaugh said that many people may disapprove of smoking, but that this is not a reason to prosecute people who enjoy cigarettes. Donaugh argued that smokers should be able to make their own decisions based on the information provided: “Our freedoms as grown ups ought to include the freedom to engage in activities which may do us harm or shorten our lives, like drinking too much or overeating fatty foods,” she said.

Freedom to die? Colin Brazier made a similar point on a Sky News blog: “We are left with a situation where someone else is deciding what amounts to the right way to die,” he wrote. Brazier said that if such a ban was enforced, it would be hypocritical that someone with a terminal disease can fly to Switzerland for assisted suicide, but that smokers would not be allowed to “kill themselves slowly with cigarettes”.

Freedom to harm? Writing in The Daily Mail, Julia Manning said that anyone arguing against the ban in the name of freedom was missing the point – smoking doesn’t just harm the smoker. Manning said that only does smoking in cars expose others to toxic smoke, having a cigarette while driving is distracting.

Car smoking not that bad. Brendan O’Neill had a more fundamental objection to calls for a ban on smoking in cars: he said on a Telegraph blog that BMA’s premise is wrong. “There has been one thorough study into this ’23 times more toxic’ claim about smoking in cars – carried out by researchers at the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal – and it found that it was nonsense on stilts,” he said. O’Neill argued that few are willing to challenge smoking research because “everyone’s critical faculties go up in a puff of smoke in the face of government or charity propaganda about evil tobacco”.

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