St Helens health chief backs smoking in car ban

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Health chiefs in the borough have welcomed a decision by the House of Lords to ban smoking in cars carrying children.

After numerous campaigns and calls for a law to be passed, the motion put forward by the Labour party was accepted by the house yesterday.

The amendment brought by Lord Hunt, Lord Faulkner and Baroness Hughes will make it an offence for drivers of a private vehicle to fail to prevent smoking when a child is present.

One supporter of the ban is St Helens Council’s director of public health, Liz Gaulton.

St Helens Council has had a vvoluntary smoke free homes and cars scheme with more than 800 people pledging to make their homes and cars smoke free in the last six months.

A survey of children in St Helens last year found that half the children live in a household where someone regularly smokes.

St Helens Council, along with Tobacco Free Futures, has been campaigning for this change in legislation, which has more than 80 per cent public support throughout the North West

Mrs Gaulton said: “We’re delighted with the news that there will be a free vote in the House of Commons on protecting children from smoke in cars and from tobacco advertising through glitzy promotional features. This leads on from the successful St Helens smoke free homes and cars scheme.”

The Department of Health has said it believes education campaigns are a better way to discourage people from smoking around children.

Smoking was banned in England in workplaces and most enclosed public spaces in July 2007 following similar legislation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The law prohibited smoking in vehicles used for work.

But the pro-smoking group Forest disputes such claims.

Director Simon Clark said: “Legislation is completely unnecessary. Most adult smokers accept that smoking in a car with children present is inconsiderate and the overwhelming majority choose not to. Education, not legislation, is the way forward.”

The campaign to pass the law was backed by organisations including the British Heart Foundation, Asthma UK, the Royal College of Paediatrics, and Child Health.

Shadow health secretary and Labour MP for Leigh, Andy Burnham, said: “When it comes to improving the health of children, we are duty bound to consider any measure that might make a difference.

“Adults are free to make their own choices but that often does not apply to children and that’s why society has an obligation to protect them from preventable harm.

“Evidence from other countries shows that stopping smoking in the confined space of a car carrying children can prevent damage to their health and has strong public support.”