“She should hang her head in shame” says Alex of “ignorant” Health Secretary’s opposition to protecting children from the health effects of second-hand smoking

The Deputy Prime Minister and Health Secretary, Therese Coffey should hang her head in shame and put the health of the health of the nation ahead of her own opinion and self-interests according to Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham.

His criticism followed her defence of her decision to vote against prohibiting smoking in cars with a child under 18 years old present.

Speaking on LBC radio the Health Secretary said she voted against the law in 2015 “because I didn’t think it was the right thing to do to tell parents how to handle the situation with their children.” She also admitted not knowing if the law had indeed changed.

Alex, Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health, led the campaign against smoking in a car with a child under the age of 18 as his first Private Members Bill – with it originally being a Ten-Minute Rule Bill in 2011 – and was successful in pushing the Conservative Government to adopt the law in 2015. 

At the time, the British Lung Foundation estimated that half a million children were exposed to second hand smoke in a car every week, and 77 per cent of respondents to a YouGov poll, including almost two thirds of smokers were in favour of the ban.

Alex said

“The long-term impacts of smoking on people’s health is well documented and second-hand smoke is known to cause health problems, with so-called “passive smokers” more likely to develop lung and heart disease. 

“The banning of smoking in a car with a child was a positive step forward in protecting the health of young people.  It was a campaign that took me three years to convince the Tory Government to support, so it beggars belief that the Heath Secretary is not only opposed to measures that would keep children safe but was also completely ignorant that such a law existed. 

“I’d suggest she takes a refresher course in the legislation she is meant to have responsibility for as she is quite clearly unfit for the role she holds at the moment.”

The Health Secretary, a smoker who has consistently voted against anti-smoking measures and accepted hospitality from the tobacco industry, is also reportedly set to abandon plans to make the country “smoke free” by 2030 despite it being a 2019 Conservative manifesto pledge. 

The Government has repeatedly announced plans to bring forward a “tobacco control plan” to reduce the harmful effects of smoking but parliament is still waiting.