After a review of compelling scientific evidence that supports a ban on smoking in motor vehicles, the BMA calls upon UK governments to introduce an extension to the current smoke-free legislation to include a ban on smoking in private vehicles. The review is published today in the BMA’s new briefing paper.

An investigation conducted by the BMA reveals that there is substantial evidence that smoking in vehicles exposes individuals who don’t smoke to extremely high levels of second-hand smoke. Due to internal environment in vehicles being restrictive, passengers are exposed to 23 times more toxins than a smokey bar. Vulnerable individuals, such as children and the elderly, are especially at risk from these health dangers.

As children absorb more pollutants, they are at particular risk. Compared to adults, a child’s immune system is significantly under developed and does not have the necessary defenses to deal with the harms second-hand smoke causes.

Second-hand smoke is particularly dangerous for elderly individuals who are prone to respiratory problems.

Vulnerable groups, including infants and young children, don’t have the same options available to them as adults and may not be able to refuse to take a journey in a smoky vehicle.

Dr. Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s Director of Professional Activities, explained today:

“Every year in England there are over 80,000 deaths that are caused by smoking. This figure increases to a shocking six million worldwide.

But behind the stark statistics, doctors see the individual cases of ill-health and premature death caused by smoking and second-hand smoke. For this reason, doctors are committed to reducing the harm caused by tobacco.

The UK made a huge step forward in the fight against tobacco by banning smoking in all enclosed public places but more can still be done.

We are calling on UK governments to take the bold and courageous step of banning smoking in private vehicles. The evidence for extending the smoke-free legislation is compelling. The current UK Government prefers voluntary measures or “nudging” to bring about public health change but this stance has been shown to fail time and time again.”

The launch of the briefing paper coincides with the second reading of Alex Cunningham’s Private Members’ Bill calling for a ban on smoking in private vehicles when children at present. This issue is due to be debated on November 25.

Written by Grace Rattue