A three year campaign by Teesside MP, Alex Cunningham, to ban smoking in cars when children are present won overwhelming support from MPs as they voted 376 – 107 for an amendment to the Children and Families Bill last night.
There is still, however, some way to go as the clause passed takes the form of enabling legislation requiring the Government to bring forward secondary legislation to implement the ban.
The Labour Member of Parliament for Stockton North has campaigned on the issue since June 2011, and has maintained pressure on the Government to protect the health of the UK’s young people ever since.
Despite various efforts previously, this was the first time that MPs had been afforded a definitive vote on banning smoking in cars with children present. And the cross-party nature of support was clear for all to see as the measure passed by a significant majority.
“I am overjoyed that Members were finally granted the opportunity to have their say on such an important issue of child protection.
“As many as 185,000 children are exposed to cigarette smoke in their family cars on a daily or almost-daily basis. The inclusion of this clause within the Children and Families Bill will allow for future legislation making it a criminal offence to smoke in a car carrying a child, and is a very big stride towards bringing an end to a detestable habit.
“With passive smoking particularly harmful to children, given their quicker respiration rates, smaller airways, less mature immune systems, and greater absorption of pollutants, we have a recipe for a preventable public health time bomb.
“Thanks to a decisive vote in the House of Lords last month, MPs have tonight been able to take the first step towards making life healthier for almost half a million children each week. And the support from Members of all sides truly demonstrates the strength of feeling that we need to take decisive action now to protect our children and young people from such avoidable harms.
“While there is more work still to do, I am excited by the prospect of a ban on smoking in cars when children are present becoming law in the near future and will continue to fight to ensure that this result is achieved.”
MPs also voted in favour of standard packaging for tobacco products – by an even bigger majority but again more details have to be brought forward by the Government before the measures are implemented.