Jim Hume MSP launches consultation on bill banning smoking in vehicles with children present

Jim Hume launching consultation on smokingLiberal Democrat MSP for the South of Scotland Jim Hume this week launched a consultation on his Members’ Bill which would see smoking banned in vehicles where children are present. When I initially flagged this up a few weeks ago, there was a mixed reaction to the proposals.

Jim says in the foreword to his consultation document:

Recent research has shown that 17% of 11-16 year olds in the UK are exposed to second-hand smoke more than once a week while in a car with a further 30% indicating exposure once a week or less. These are shocking figures. I believe we can improve on the ban on smoking in public places and places of work, further protecting our children.
Research has found that second-hand tobacco smoke in cars has serious negative health impacts for children, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, coughing, wheezing, asthma and respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Not to mention the known risk of lung cancer from second hand smoke and the fact those exposed to second hand smoke as children are more likely to take up smoking themselves in later life.
Some children have no option but to go into a smoke filled car en route to the school, shops or their sport. I believe we have a moral duty to protect those children from second hand smoke, which will allow children to have the freedom to get the best start in life and go on to lead healthy lives themselves. I believe we need to remove the danger of smoke filled cars and ban smoking in cars when children are present. That is why I am consulting on the intention to bring in a Member’s Bill which will prohibit tobacco smoking in cars when children are present.

Penalty

The penalty Jim is proposing is similar to that for using a mobile phone while driving – an on the spot fine of £60. There would be no penalty points on a driving licence, though, as you wouldn’t have to be driving to be in breach of this offence.

This might ease the concerns of some that a social services investigation would ensue on conviction.

Medical evidence

The document contains 9 pages of hard hitting, credible medical evidence outlining the case for change. In some ways, I think that some of that should be used to create a public awareness campaign on the dangers children face if you smoke in a car near them. If Jim’s measure leads to that, surely it will be a big step forward.

Scots have until 30th August to respond to the consultation, which asks 11 questions. One issue that immediately comes to mind is how to raise awareness in other parts of the UK so that visitors to Scotland are aware. You can read the whole document and find out how to respond here.

Update: While the Scotsman understood Jim’s aims, its leader came out against his proposal. Jim had this letter in response  published today:

Indeed, it was in John ­Stuart Mill’s seminal work, On Liberty, that he argued the only circumstance under which power can be rightfully exercised over another individual, against their will, is to prevent harm to others.

It is with this principle in mind that I have put forward my proposals which would ban smoking in cars when children are passengers.

I hope that readers will also reflect upon the comments of Dr Neneh Rowa-Dewar of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, who put forward a very lucid point during our consultation launch. She inferred that society had not yet afforded children the status of rights as we do adults. As children have no freedom or choice to opt out of the drive to school, dance class or football practice, surely we have a duty to preserve their freedom from such obvious harm whilst in that vehicle.

It is a concerning path to travel that we avoid offering children more freedoms on the basis that adult freedoms hold top trumps. This is not about opening doors to the nanny state, but about ­caring for children who have no power in that specific situation to protect their health.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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11 Comments

  • “The document contains 9 pages of hard hitting, credible medical evidence outlining the case for change.”

    I don’t think anyone would disagree that the windows should be open, and that smoking in a car with closed windows is “frowned upon”, but what about with the windows open?

    The whole documents conclusion to that relies upon WHO targets of air quality of PM 2.5 levels being 25.

    The document mentions that with the open window, readings of 51 where recorded! oh no, that’s twice the level the WHO recommends.

    oh, but a bit of googling finds average readings for Boston (where the study took place) are 35-61.

    Ah……Maybe we should ban people from taking kids to boston, clearly as dangerous as smoking in the car with an open window.

    And then the document mentions an average figure of 85 ug/m3 for smoking in cars, but it seems unclear if this figure is a mish mash of open and closed window results.

    #Get your figures straightened out, stop hiding them amounts impressive looking statistical documents, then we can have a proper debate.

  • Oh, also a fun statistic.

    Beijing’s levels of PM 2.5 can reach 500 ug/m3. Which is higher than smoking in a car.

    Taking your kid to Beijing on holiday, time to give social services a call methinks.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th May '13 - 3:25pm

    Meanwhile, 500,000 are going to foodbanks.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th May '13 - 3:33pm

    OK, I shouldn’t derail, I have no strong feelings about this bill as long as it doesn’t cost much money and doesn’t involve pulling over cars to check if children are in the back.

  • But the children need the nicotine to stave off the hunger pangs?

  • “Dr Neneh Rowa-Dewar of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies”

    Yeah, that explains a lot.

    As someone commented above, a lot of city centre air can be worse than passive smoking. And I do think that, as Liberals, we should leave it up to the other parties to do the authoritarian nannying and moralising. But, you know, lots of people’s mileage clearly varies.

  • What is probably doing children (in general) more longer term harm is being driven to and from school rather than walking to school…

  • Helen Dudden 1st Jun '13 - 10:42am

    In England we have laws on the subject of smoking. It is restricted, as we all know.

    I support Jim Hume, one of the more sensible members you have. Cancer is a terrible illness to have.

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