SMOKERS should be banned from lighting up in private cars due to the major health risks to children’s health, a team of Scottish academics say.
Smoking in cars – even when all the windows are opened -–causes a concentration of pollutants that is three times higher than the World Health Organisation’s indoor air quality standard deemed to be a “safe level”.
Aberdeen University researchers found it can seriously damage children’s health and puts them at increased risk of asthma, ear infections and even sudden infant death syndrome.
They carried out the largest study to date into the effects of passive smoking in vehicles and concluded it is so harmful to youngsters’ health that smoking should be banned in all cars in the UK. Levels of fine particulate matter were measured every minute in the back seats of cars during typical journeys made by smokers and non-smokers over a three-day period.
The team found levels of harmful pollutants were 11 times higher in “smoking” cars when compared with “non-smoking” cars.
Dr Sean Semple, of the university’s Scottish Centre for Indoor Air, said: “Children are likely to be at greater risk from second-hand smoke exposure due to their faster breathing rates, less developed immune system and their inability to move away from the source in many home and car settings.
“Exposure at the levels reported here is likely to be harmful to respiratory health.
“There is a clear need for legislation to prohibit smoking in cars where children are present.”
Several countries, including Canada and Cyprus, have introduced legislation to ban smoking in cars in which children are passengers. A bill to ban smoking in cars carrying children, with a penalty of a smoke-free awareness course or a £60 fine is being looked at by MPs at Westminster, but there are no plans for a ban in Scotland.
Some experts claim smoking in cars exposes non-smokers to high levels of second-hand smoke which has 23 times more toxins than a busy smoke-filled room. Previous studies have revealed at least three in ten smokers light up in their cars when there are other people present.
The British Medical Association has said second-hand smoke is a serious health hazard for adults, particularly elderly people who are prone to respiratory problems. The doctors’ union supports a ban on smoking in cars as the “most effective and simplest way” to cut health-related issues.
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of anti-smoking charity ASH Scotland, said: “Tobacco smoke is toxic and in enclosed spaces like cars it quickly reaches high concentrations. We urgently need to raise awareness that second-hand smoke is harmful.”