Liberal Democrat South Scotland MSP and health spokesperson Jim Hume will today (Thursday 8 October) lead a stage 1 debate on his Member's Bill that will change the law to protect children from the dangers of second hand smoke (SHS) in cars.
It is estimated that 60,000 children each week in Scotland are exposed to the harmful effects of SHS during car journeys. Mr Hume’s Bill would see passengers aged over 18 lighting up while children are in the car receive a fixed penalty.
The Smoking Prohibition (Children in Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Bill will come to the chamber at Holyrood today for its stage one debate. Last month, Holyrood’s Health Committee backed the Bill, citing strong public support for the measures Mr Hume has proposed.
Researchers have warned that levels of harmful fine particulate matter during car journeys where someone smokes are over ten times higher compared to smoke-free car journeys.
Mr Hume’s bill has the backing of health charities like the British Lung Foundation and medical groups such as the British Medical Association.
Speaking ahead of the stage 1 debate, Mr Hume said:
“This debate is another major step forwards in our efforts to protect children from the damaging effects of SHS.
“We know that children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of SHS. With an estimated 60,000 children in Scotland exposed to the harmful effects of SHS during car journeys every week, the time for action is now.
“Protecting the health of children should never be a party political issue. The evidence in favour of a change in the law is compelling and I hope to have the support of the whole chamber during the debate today.”
The Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Tam Baillie, said: “Children have a right to a healthy environment and exposing them to second hand smoke, particularly within the confines of a car, runs counter to this. Not only is legislative change necessary but a broad awareness raising campaign – informed by the views and experiences of children will go a long way towards creating the necessary change in culture.”
Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s senior public affairs manager, said: “Stubbing out before getting in a car with children should become as normal as fastening seatbelts – it’s simply not acceptable to expose children to cancer-causing second-hand smoke. There’s strong public and political support for Jim Hume’s Bill to ban smoking in cars where children are passengers. And Cancer Research UK and the wider public health community fully back this Bill, as part of a comprehensive tobacco control programme.”
Irene Johnstone, Head of British Lung Foundation Scotland, said: "Second-hand smoke is a serious health hazard, particularly for children. Their developing lungs and faster breathing make them more vulnerable to the toxins in tobacco smoke than adults. This legislation will give Scotland's children the same protection as young people in England and Wales. It can't come in soon enough"
Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of health charity ASH Scotland said: “This is well-evidenced, popular legislation that will help to protect children’s health. Similar measures are already in place in England and Wales, and there seems to be wide cross-party support for the proposals here in Scotland. I hope to see this Bill fully supported by the Scottish Parliament, and passed and implemented as soon as possible.”
Dr Peter Bennie, Chair of BMA Scotland, said: “The BMA believes this Bill is an important first step in reducing tobacco harm by restricting the prevalence of second hand smoke in private vehicles when children are present. Children are still developing physically and biologically and compared to adults they breathe more rapidly, absorb more pollutants and have less developed immune systems. As a result, they are more susceptible to the harmful effects of second hand smoke and are less likely to be able to choose to move away from it.”
Sean Semple, Senior Lecturer, Aberdeen University, said: “Our previous study looked at levels of harmful fine particulate matter during car journeys where someone smoked and found levels were over ten times higher compared to smoke-free car journeys. If children were being exposed to these concentrations of air pollution when playing outside there would be a national outcry. This proposed law is an important further step towards protecting children from the known harms caused by second-hand smoke and achieving Scotland’s aim of reducing the number of children exposed to SHS by one-half by 2020.”