Road Safety News

Health minister calls for smoking ban in cars

Wednesday 27th February 2013

Anna Soubry, England’s public health minister, has suggested that smoking should banned in cars on “child welfare” grounds.

Several health groups have backed Ms Soubry’s call for action, but to date it has been resisted by the Government, claims BBC News.

Speaking at the Local Government Association's annual public health conference, Ms Soubry said: “I would ban smoking in cars where children are present. I would do that for the protection of children. I would see it as a child welfare issue. I think it is something we should at least consider as Government.”

Martin Dockrell, director of policy and research at the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health, said: “The minister can count on our support and the majority of the public. A ban on smoking in cars is the right thing to do. We need to think about whether this should just be aimed at children. Older adults are vulnerable too.”

A host of other health groups have also called for a ban in cars, including the British Medical Association and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Back in 2007, Road Safety GB (then LARSOA) called on the Government to look into introducing a blanket ban on smoking while driving, on road safety grounds.

At the time Road Safety GB claimed that lighting and then smoking a cigarette while driving is a potential distraction; and coupled with that the dangerous practice of discarding the butt into the path of the car, bicycle, or motorbike could lead to a crash.

Road traffic legislation already places responsibility on all drivers to have proper control of their vehicles. Any motorist who fails to do so, for whatever reason, such as smoking, or eating and drinking is liable to prosecution.

In Wales, ministers have said they will look to ban smoking in cars if their current drive to reduce smoking does not work. Bans have already been introduced in other parts of the world.

Click here to read the full BBC News report.


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I can't believe the Government are even considering it to be honest - how will it be enforced? Will all vehicles be fitted with a sprinkler system that is activated when the driver lights up? And no, I'm not a smoker. I just think there are more important things to the Government should spend time considering.
Anon, Notts

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

It's about both issues. The primary aim of the legislation is to reduce young children’s exposure to cigarette smoke in a confined space over which they have no control. Smoking has already been banned in vehicles driven for work as they form part of the workplace.
The second issue about safety, control and distraction for those who light and smoke cigarettes whilst driving are road safety issues. Hence this issue has been considered on the Newsfeed in the past and again now as it is topical and relevant to our primary role in the business of road safety education, training and publicity.
Honor Byford, Vice Chair Road Safety GB

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

If Martin is right, then why is the story on this website? The answer is in the last four paragraphs of the story.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

I think a lot of contributors have missed the point here. It's not about whether smoking in cars affects driving or not, but whether producing toxic fumes in an enclosed spaced, shared by a child, is a form of child abuse.
Martin, Suffolk

Agree (6) | Disagree (4)

Too many drivers still do things which are illegal, anti-social and potentially dangerous when driving anyway i.e.under the influence, speeding, on the 'phone etc. despite numerous advertising campaigns and prohibitions, so I cannnot see this particular ban being particularly effective as, to a lot, the consequences of smoking whilst driving does not seem as obviously hazardous as the ones mentioned above.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (11) | Disagree (2)

Following on from Belinda's comment. With a conservative estimate of some 60 billion vehicle trips a year in the UK, surely most drivers are completing in excess of 99.9% their trips very successfully?

Agree (10) | Disagree (0)

Car fires started by cigarettes are unlikely but it has happened - like most other behaviours when using the roads the vast majority of time people get away with it but this does not mean the behaviour is sensible. I agree it may be an exteme 'what if' scenario but if I was a smoker I wouldn't smoke while driving just like I never consume food or drink whilst driving. The main reasons are to be able to concentrate and have the car under full control at all times.
Dr James Whalen DSA ADI (car), Wolverhampton

Agree (6) | Disagree (6)

Dr James Whalen presents an extreme 'what if' scenario the like of which can be applied in some form to almost anything that occurs in a car. Most people, smoking or not, end most of their journeys safely – enormous numbers of smokers all over the world manage not to create fireballs even though they are smoking while driving. There are countless distractions in motor vehicles and drivers simply have to learn to concentrate on the road. Those who think an action is impossible shouldn't interrupt those who are capable of carrying it out.
Belinda, Edinburgh

Agree (18) | Disagree (5)

However, it may well provide an additional source of income for driving instructors who deliver the NDORS programmes.
Keith Doyle

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

This would be as unenforceable as the current mobile phone legislation without considerable investment in roads policing. Maybe the Health Minister could fund some if the Home Office won't.
Dave, Leeds

Agree (16) | Disagree (0)

I don't smoke but my father did. Preventing a smoker from smoking can make them irritable/aggressive and hence could affect their driving. As always, we are unwise to ignore all possible consequences.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (16) | Disagree (5)

Having something burning in your hand must be a distraction - and what may happen if your've involved in a collision and there's leaking fuel?
Dr James Whalen DSA ADI (car), Wolverhampton

Agree (10) | Disagree (12)