A ban on people smoking in cars where children are present is a step closer after the idea was backed by Anna Soubry, the Health Minister – though she has no immediate plans to change the law.
Alex Cunningham, Labour Member of Parliament for Stockton North, who has a Bill before the Commons to introduce such a ban, today commended the Minister for her statement and has written to her offering to work with her to get the right legislation onto the statute book.
He also welcomed a more positive response from the Prime Minister when Gateshead Labour MP Ian Mearns asked him, in light of the Minister’s comments, to support the Bill.
The Minister made the comments at the Local Government Association conference yesterday evening, justifying the idea of a ban on ‘child protection’ grounds. The Minister’s declaration of support comes after a meeting between herself and Alex last year when she offered support for the campaign, but stopped short of pledging action.
Alex’s Bill does however look set to fall on Friday due to a lack of available time before the end of the Parliamentary year so he is now exploring other ways to get the law changed.
Smoking in cars when children are present is currently legal, despite the proven damage to child health and the extra cost to the NHS of treating respiratory illness. The Bill would make it an offence, following the lead of other countries that have introduced legislation, including some parts of Canada, the US and Australia as well as the whole of South Africa.
“I am delighted to hear that the Minister has taken public her privately-expressed support for banning smoking in cars when a child is present. Thousands of children each year are forced to breathe second hand smoke in a confined space, with the obvious damage to child health and welfare that this brings with it.
“Even the Prime Minister has shifted his stance in this and said today that he believes it needs to be looked at seriously.
“Though my Bill looks like it will fall due to a lack of Parliamentary time, it is good to see that the Government at least wants to do something about it. Obviously, time will tell whether they are willing to do match words with deeds. I would encourage the Government to bring forward their own legislation that bans this perhaps alongside the proposals to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products.”