British Lung Foundation campaign to ban smoking in cars with children

For the past three years, the British Lung Foundation (BLF) has been campaigning to introduce a ban on smoking in cars when children are present. Adults can make their own lifestyle choices but children often can’t and with approximately one in five children continuing to be exposed to second-hand smoke in a car, a ban is essential.

Children are particularly vulnerable to second-hand smoke as they have smaller lungs, faster breathing and less developed immune systems. This makes them more susceptible to respiratory illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis and reduced lung function and ear infections, triggered by passive smoking.

Many people do not realise that second-hand smoke in a car can rise to harmful levels even with the window open. Research shows that a single cigarette smoked in a moving car with the car window half open exposes a child in the centre of the back seat to around two-thirds of the average smoke-filled pub.

Government-run awareness raising campaigns are a welcome step, including the campaigns in April and May 2012 and again in June 2013. Yet these alone do not go far enough in achieving real behavioural change and protecting children from second-hand smoke in the car. Children still report being exposed to smoke either in their family car or in someone else’s. Children are often too scared to ask adults to stop smoking . In a BLF-commissioned survey, only 31% of children have asked their parents to stop smoking in a car, with 34% reporting feeling too frightened or embarrassed to do so.

A comparative case which shows the success of introducing legislation alongside awareness campaigns is seatbelt use in cars. After legislation was introduced alongside awareness campaigns, seatbelt wearing rates increased in the UK from 25% to 91%. It is only with a ban alongside awareness raising campaigns, that we will be able to protect as many children as possible from the dangers of second hand-smoke in cars.

Similar bans have already been introduced in 4 US states, 10 of 13 Canadian provinces, 7 of 8 Australian states, and in five countries, including South Africa (for children under 12) and Cyprus.

We need to ensure that the UK government introduces a ban on smoking in cars with children. This autumn, there is a real opportunity to do this via an amendment to the Children and Families Bill.

Actors David Harewood and Linda Robson have lent their voices to two online videos in support of the British Lung Foundation’s smoking in cars campaign.

In a break from their previous acting roles, the two videos see both actors providing voices for toddlers, highlighting the need to give a voice to one in five children in the UK who are regularly exposed to the potentially dangerous concentrations of second-hand smoke in cars.

Read more about how you can support the BLF’s campaign on smoking in cars with children here.