Jim Hume MSP, the Liberal Democrat health spokesperson in the Scottish Parliament, is proposing a Bill to ban smoking in cars with children. Here is ASH Scotland’s response.
One of ASH Scotland’s priorities is to raise awareness of the harm that tobacco smoke causes to others, and to find the best ways of protecting people from that harm.
Now that we have smoke-free enclosed public spaces, children’s exposure to second hand smoke most often happens in the car or at home. The health risks from second hand smoke, particularly to children, are well known – so the question is what are we going to do about it?
Ideally we would create a smoke-free “bubble” around our children – starting with a smoke-free house and smoke-free car. We know from our involvement in the REFRESH project that parents who smoke want to protect their children but often don’t know enough about the harm caused by second hand smoke or what they can do about it. The REFRESH “How To” guide provides a wealth of information on this. We do not want to see legislation regarding how parents or carers smoke in the house, but we do believe that a strong and ongoing public awareness campaign about smoke free homes could reap real benefits. The Scottish Government has recently announced that it will set a target for reducing children’s exposure to second hand smoke, and it is difficult to see how such a target could be achieved otherwise.
Cars require a tailored approach, different to that for homes. In the public sphere we generally consider restrictions to our freedoms in order to avoid harm to others — cars are often considered part private/part public space but there are already a number of legal restrictions like child car seats and seatbelts for safety reasons. ASH Scotland therefore believes that:
– we need to see widespread awareness raising work around the impact of second hand smoke in cars
– we support the idea of legislation as an option if awareness raising does not show significant results
– while there is an understandable focus on the welfare of children, second hand smoke will impact on anyone else in the car and if our intention is to reduce harm to others then this should be reflected in our debates.
So we welcome moves by Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Jim Hume MSP to introduce a member’s Bill to ban smoking in cars with children, and will be encouraging MSPs to support the proposal. Having this proposal achieve the necessary support to be formally scrutinised by the Parliament will provide an ideal opportunity for the issue to receive the attention it deserves, and to spark the national debate we need to see.