The Question of Smoking in Cars
Has the smoking ban which came into force in June 2007 been a success? Should the Government go along with the advice of the British Medical Association (BMA) and extend the ban to smoke free zones in our personal cars? Just two closed questions for a huge and very open topic.
Smoking is a very complex public and private health question. New research has put a frightening number on something that seems obvious and that we all knew, all along. Drivers and passengers inhale twenty three times more of the poisons than smokers in more open situations.
The prime minister is “much more nervous” about legislating on private behaviour in cars. He said just that at Prime Minister’s Questions two weeks ago. He voted against the 2007 ban but says he was wrong then and will consider the extension proposal “seriously.”
There is plenty of precedent for legal circumscription in personal space. In truth the very act of getting into a car is to be bound by a whole plethora of health and safety restrictions; You have passed a rigorous test to gain your driving license, you must wear a seat belt and not use a mobile phone, the concept of due care and attention is a huge net that catches many a dangerous driver. Surely there is enough common sense around to realize that smoking whilst driving undermines due care and attention as much as, if not more than a phone call. There is no such thing as ‘hands-free’ lighting up’. Perhaps car makers are working on it in the way they have made safe electric lighters to replace matches.
To drive a car is to court danger and to be regulated to the hilt in order to reduce the risks. To smoke is to be taxed and warned on every pack that what you are doing is a serious if not mortal health risk. Ordering drivers to stop driving while enveloped in a dangerous individual atmosphere of poison gases is a minor step forward.
The ‘Big Tobacco’ mouth piece Forest asks the fair question “What next, a ban on smoking in the home?” Why not say the non smoking lobby. If smokers have no regard for their own health why should others? Then there is the financial side of the tobacco equation. Is the revenue raised sufficient to pay for the health consequences? What of all the jobs in the tobacco companies at this time of economic austerity? Certainly these considerations are enough to make a proposal such as making ownership and use of tobacco a criminal act, unthinkable.
[box type="note"]Two things for certain in all this, is that firstly the debate will go on and the change will be incremental. Maybe smoking in your car when there are children present will be first. Then when any other person is in the same car. Then the driver. Then open space as well as all public places. Then in your own home. Secondly the tobacco industry will continue to push their products hard in countries where public health is not so seriously thought about.[/box]