BMA press releases archive

BMA calls for smoking ban to include private motor vehicles

(issued Wednesday 16 Nov 2011)

A review of compelling scientific evidence supporting a ban on smoking in motor vehicles is published today (Wednesday 16 November) in a new briefing paper1 from the BMA.

The BMA is calling on UK governments to introduce an extension to the current smoke-free legislation to include a ban on smoking in private vehicles.

Research compiled by the BMA shows that there is strong evidence that smoking in vehicles exposes non-smokers to very high levels of second-hand smoke. This is because the restrictive internal environment in motor vehicles could expose drivers and passengers to toxins up to 11 times2 greater than in a smoky bar. Children and other vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly, are particularly at risk from these health dangers.

Children are at particular risk from second-hand smoke in cars as they absorb more pollutants. A child’s immune system is also considerably under developed, compared to an adult’s, and lacks the necessary defences to deal with the harms of second-hand smoke.

The elderly are prone to respiratory problems so second-hand smoke is especially dangerous for them.

Vulnerable groups, including children, do not have the same choices as adults and may be unable to refuse to take a journey in a smoky vehicle.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s Director of Professional Activities, said today:

“Every year in England there are over 80,000 deaths that are caused by smoking. This figure increases to a shocking six million worldwide.

“But behind the stark statistics, doctors see the individual cases of ill-health and premature death caused by smoking and second-hand smoke. For this reason, doctors are committed to reducing the harm caused by tobacco.

“The UK made a huge step forward in the fight against tobacco by banning smoking in all enclosed public places but more can still be done.

“We are calling on UK governments to take the bold and courageous step of banning smoking in private vehicles. The evidence for extending the smoke-free legislation is compelling. The current UK Government prefers voluntary measures or ‘nudging’ to bring about public health change but this stance has been shown to fail time and time again.”

The launch of the BMA’s briefing paper coincides with the second reading of Alex Cunningham’s2 Private Members’ Bill calling for a ban on smoking in private vehicles when children are present. This is listed to be debated on Friday 25 November.


Notes to editors:

1 To read the full briefing paper please click here:

2 This is a change in wording from the original press release following an error that was found in the briefing paper shortly after publication.

3Alex Cunningham is the Labour MP for Stockton North

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