The grim irony of banning smoking in cars with children – Scotsman comment

When ‘second-hand smoke’ was first raised as a potential threat to health, some ridiculed the idea as the ramblings of the worst kind of hypochondriac. How could someone else’s cigarette possibly pose a risk?

Children can no longer be legally exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke in cars, but they will be breathing in fumes from the exhaust (Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)
Children can no longer be legally exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke in cars, but they will be breathing in fumes from the exhaust (Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)

But this sense of disbelief was actually a sign of just how complacent we had become about the air we breathe.

A new study by Glasgow, Aberdeen and Stirling universities has revealed that hospital admissions of under-fives with asthma fell in Scotland in the two years after a ban on smoking in vehicles carrying children was introduced in December 2016.

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Professor Jill Pell, of Glasgow University, said their research, published in The Lancet Public Health journal, showed the legislation had resulted in a “significant benefit to children”. And that is good news.

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However, it is perhaps grimly ironic that, as a nation, we took action to deal with this car-related air pollution problem, while paying too little attention to a much greater one: the steady flow of ‘second-hand smoke’ from the exhaust.

Like cigarette smoke, it is also linked with asthma, heart disease, lung cancer, stroke and a range of other potentially fatal conditions. And, of course, it is a major driver of climate change, which we have allowed to develop from a manageable problem into a pressing crisis over a period of decades in which we failed to take the situation seriously enough.

Complacency about air – the most vital of resources which we should treasure beyond all others – may not be what it once was but, regrettably, it still remains a very real problem.

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