The smoking gun

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The motor car may have been with us for more than 120 years but it is still seen by many as a ticket to personal freedom; providing the opportunity to move and interact with a wider world around us without any significant restrictions on time or distance.

But it is those very desirable attributes that are being eroded by more legislation - the latest of which concerns smoking in cars.

New research has backed the proposed ban after concluding that the habit produces pollutants which could be harmful to passengers.

Even when smokers open their windows or use air conditioning, the concentrations of pollutants are three times higher than the World Health Organisation indoor air quality standards and such exposure is likely to affect the health of child passengers, said researchers from the University of Aberdeen.

The data, published in Tobacco Control, examined 17 drivers, 14 of whom were smokers, who made a total of 104 journeys, with an average duration of 27 minutes.

Levels of fine particulate matter were measured every minute in the rear passenger area during typical car journeys made by smokers and non-smokers over a three-day period. The average particulate matter levels were 11 times higher in smoking cars compared with non-smoking cars.

The authors of the study said that exposure to second-hand smoke is linked to several children’s health problems, including sudden infant death, meningitis and respiratory conditions such as asthma and wheezing.

The Smoke-free Private Vehicles Bill to ban smoking in private cars is being considered by MPs. The Bill would outlaw smoking in cars which are carrying children, with a penalty of a smoke-free awareness course as a first offence, or a £60 fine.

The reality is that a ban on smoking in work vehicles has been in effect for several years already. But the same ban in a private car is another matter as it requires the compliance of an individual.

Yet the underlying message of the proposed ban is one of personal responsibility. As with any freedom, the right to drive a car and to use the road comes with responsibility.

Just as any road user has a personal responsibility to stay within the rules of the road and comply with vehicle legislation for the protection of others as well as themselves, there is a strong case that smoking in vehicles should be regarded in exactly the same way - for the protection of those who have no say.