Alex Cunningham, Member of Parliament for Stockton North, says his battle to protect the health of the UK’s children and young people by outlawing smoking in private vehicles when children are present will continue despite its latest setback.
Last week, Alex called on the Government to take real action to tackle and prevent the harmful effects of second-hand smoke following the launch of a Government advertising campaign to warn of the dangers posed by passive smoking.
Speaking during the Report Stage of the Children and Families Bill on Tuesday, where he tabled New Clause 17 to once again highlight the child protection issues that subjecting young people to second-hand smoke raises, Alex said:
“A majority of people understand that smoking is harmful to our health, particularly the health of children, and most would not expose children to smoke in a vehicle. … However, research from the British Lung Foundation found that more than 51% of eight to fifteen-year-olds reported exposure to cigarette smoke when confined in a car in the UK.”
Despite the clause not being included in the Bill, which has now passed to the House of Lords, Alex pledged to maintain pressure on the Government to legislate in this area. Alex hopes that the Lords, who last year passed a Private Members Bill for a ban, will help continue the fight. He said:
“I was pleased to have received a letter last Monday from Anna Soubry MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health, with her reassurances that the Government would like to see smoking in cars carrying children eradicated – a position she backed-up during Health Questions on Tuesday.
“I was extremely disappointed, therefore, that the Minister has again refused to legislate in this area, preferring instead a soft-touch approach that carries no sanction and no deterrent. In a situation that impacts directly on the health of children and young people, robust action is required to achieve real results.
“It is time that we heeded public and medical opinion, and got out of the slow lane. There is a strong consensus amongst expert medical groups about the need for legislating in this area, including the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and the Royal College of Physicians.
“If something is damaging to children, we should act immediately to mitigate risk. I will continue to push for proper regulation in this area, and will work with colleagues in both Houses to make sure that we bring this about.”