A couple of weeks ago, Anna Soubry MP received considerable media coverage, and widespread praise from medical professionals and health charities, for expressing her personal support for legislation to prohibit smoking in private vehicles in which there is a child passenger. Not only do I share Anna’s views, but I believe that we as a party – a party for whom the protection of society’s most vulnerable is a core principle – have a duty to adopt the introduction of such legislation as official policy.
There are inevitably concerns in some quarters that such legislation would constitute yet another unwanted Government intrusion into the private lives of honest Britons. Others fear it would be the thin end of the wedge, leading inexorably to bans on smoking in all cars, smoking within the privacy of one’s own home, or even an all-out ban on smoking anywhere.
However, while we as a party are right to be cautious about any unnecessary encroachments by the ‘nanny state’, such objections to this particular piece of legislation miss the point. This law would not be an attempt to discourage or marginalise smokers by limiting when and where they are able to light up. This is a child protection issue: a law protecting children from the proven dangers of concentrated second-hand smoke when travelling within the small, enclosed confines of a car. And to assuage any concerns that such a law might be the start of a slippery slope leading to ever more pervasive prohibitions, it is worth reviewing the scientific evidence that make the arguments for this very specific ban – only in cars carrying children – so compelling.