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Should drivers be banned from smoking while driving?

Posted in Personal Health 30 May, 2013

A Scottish MSP has ignited a debate with his bid to ban smoking while driving, specifically when children are present. South of Scotland Liberal Democrat MSP Jim Hume’s proposal, follows the government’s overall objective to significantly reduce the country’s smoking population, including reducing the number of people who smoke down to 5% by 2034. Since its introduction, the ban according to Dr John Britton chairman of the Royal College of Physicians' tobacco advisory group, ‘has had a huge impact on the quality of life particularly in people with cardiovascular disease.’ Furthermore a Glasgow’s University study showed that since the ban’s enforcement, ‘birth rates before and after the ban found a 10% drop in the country’s premature birth rate.’

The smoking ban

Scotland was the first country to introduce a smoking ban in March 2006. Followed by Britain two years later, the law which has effectively banned smoking in workplaces and enclosed public spaces, was implemented to reduce the harmful effects of passive smoking and prevent exposure to second hand smoke. Nobody can argue just how successful the ban in the UK has been. Studies have shown a 15% reduction in the number of children with asthma being admitted to hospital. However although it cannot be argued that the proposal to ban smoking while driving when children are present is without a doubt the right thing to do, it is still questionable whether such a ban can realistically be enforced?

The effects of passive smoking

Hume’s proposal comes at a time when various health studies have raised concerns on passive smoking and the various health impacts it has on children. According to the nhs, exposure to tobacco smoke puts children at:

  • A 60% increased risk of a chest infection
  • A risk of conditions like bronchiolitis infection and inflammation of the airways
  • A 65% - 77% increased risk of wheezing
  • A risk of asthma, increased by 50%
  • Middle ear disease
  • More than double the risk of bacterial meningitis
  • A 90% increased risk of becoming smokers themselves

Opposition to the ban

Although no way condoning parents to expose their children to second hand smoke, Simon Clark, director of the smoker’s group Forest argues that ‘such legislation is disproportionate to the problem,’ and that ‘education has to be better than yet another law that would be very difficult to enforce.’ I agree that educating parents who do smoke around their children would be more beneficial in helping to prevent the problem as opposed to persecuting them. What’s more how far will such a ban go in prosecuting parents who smoke in the presence of their children in their private vehicles? Would this not as Clark puts it see ‘a major intrusion into people’s private lives’? What would the explications of Hume’s proposal lead to? A ‘ban on smoking in the home if children are present?’ Such reservations on how best to implement a smoking ban in private vehicles and free will places a question mark on the ban.

Is the ban feasible?

It cannot be argued that smoking in any enclosed area can cause serious and far-reaching consequences to your child’s health. Its true something needs to be done. If parents become more aware of the harmful effects of passive smoking, than most I believe would reconsider smoking while driving and smoking in the presence of their children, and may even seek to get effective treatment to curb their addiction. Surely this means that education is the key.

As adults we choose whether to smoke or not. In terms of second hand smoke and its effect on children, we must remember that children are given no such choice.

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