UK pushing to ban smoking in cars with children

Lawbreakers could be fined up to $100.

Politicians in the United Kingdom are preparing to vote on a law that would make it illegal for motorists to smoke in their car if they are carrying young children. The law was introduced by the Labour party as an amendment to the Children and Families bill.

The bill's backers claim research shows smoking in cars is considerably more dangerous than smoking outdoors even if the windows are open because the bulk of the smoke remains trapped in a confined space. Cigarette smoke is particularly detrimental to children as it exposes them to the various carcinogens found in second-hand smoke at a very young age.

"Adults are free to make their own choices but that often does not apply to children, and that's why society has an obligation to protect them from preventable harm," explained a politician who supports the bill.

Labour has not detailed what kind of penalty breaking the law will entail but sources close to the matter have hinted lawbreakers could be fined up to £60 (about $100) for a first-time offense.

As expected, the proposed law has drawn its fair share of criticism from all across the United Kingdom. Opponents say many adults already know not to smoke in a car when children are on-board and add that the issue is best addressed by an educational campaign, not by the creation of a law that will give the government access to the private space of individuals.

"Adults already know how to behave, they don't need the state interfering in their lives like this. If there are still some people who smoke in a car with children, then let's educate them, but let's not legislate," said Simon Clark, the director of a pro-smoking group called FOREST.

Opponents also fear the law will be difficult to enforce so it will quickly lead to general ban of smoking in cars.

South Africa, six Australian states, Cyprus, nine Canadian provinces and eight U.S. states including Arkansas, California and Louisiana already ban smokers from lighting up with children in the back seat. Finland, Ireland and Holland are considering similar measures.

Photo by Ronan Glon.

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