SMOKING in private cars in which children are travelling could be outlawed in Scotland within the next 18 months, under reforms lodged at Holyrood by an MSP.
Motorists or passengers caught smoking in private vehicles while a child under 18 is present could be fined £100, if the bill launched by Liberal Democrat MSP Jim Hume becomes law.
The plan has already attracted significant cross-party support, with ministers stating that they are “broadly sympathetic”.
Mr Hume said it would give youngsters the “healthiest start in life”.
It will now come before parliament and could become law by the next Holyrood election in May 2016.
Campaigners have warned about the dangers of children being exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke, with an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, coughing and wheezing, asthma and lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
Mr Hume said that research showed that 60,000 children are being exposed to second-hand smoke in cars in Scotland every week, as he launched the bill yesterday.
A ban on smoking in cars with children present has already been introduced in Australia, Canada and South Africa.
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The Liberal Democrat MSP called on the Scottish Government to follow suit and to formally back his bill, which has already won the support of 44 MSPs, from Labour, the SNP, the Scottish Greens and independents, as well a Conservative MSP.
Mr Hume, who has already held a consultation on the bill, said: “Today, my bill to stop smoking in cars whilst children are present is now formally laid at parliament.
“I am delighted that Scottish Labour have already said they will support the move. A shocking 60,000 children each week are exposed to second-hand smoke in vehicles.
“This bill is about guaranteeing that children in Scotland can have the freedom to go on and lead healthy lives if they choose to.”
The Smoking (Children in Vehicles) (Scotland) Bill has also won the support of health organisations, charities and professional medical bodies.
Dr Peter Bennie, chairman of the British Medical Association Scotland, said: “Smoking in vehicles is a source of concentrated second-hand smoke and, as children are still developing, they are at particular risk.
“The evidence for extending smoke-free legislation is compelling and we would encourage the Scottish Parliament to support the introduction of a ban on smoking in vehicles with children present.”
James Cant, head of the British Lung Foundation Scotland, said: “Second-hand smoke exposure can lead to illnesses from glue ear and asthma attacks to meningitis, and can be a risk factor in cot death”.
The Scottish Government has put forward its own consultation on smoking in cars with children as part of proposed anti-smoking legislation, that could also include a ban on selling e-cigarettes to under-18s.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are broadly sympathetic to this proposal and await details of this bill will interest.”
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