The following article is an extract from my book Fingers To The Keyboard, published in 2014.
Smoking in cars
29 January, 2014
The House of Lords has backed a Labour plan to ban smoking in cars carrying children, despite opposition from the government. Labour peers tabled an amendment to the Children and Families Bill detailing their proposal for England, which they said was about “protecting children”. Ministers had argued that the new law was a “blunt instrument” and public information campaigns were preferable. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-25939908
This news report caught my attention as yet another attempt by the Health and Safety brigade to impose another stupid and unenforceable directive on our lives. I am sure that such people waste their lives thinking up ways to justify their miserable existence. Whole new bureaucracies are created on a whim, supported by armies of jobsworths and a mountain of unenforceable legislation. As Ernie Entwhistle’s dad used to say – ‘Daft, I call it.’
When the BBC online website included this report, I sent an e-mail around to family and friends. Here’s what I said and by the way, I am a non-smoker and have been that way since 12 October 1967, the day before my first child was born.
I have a number of questions about this proposed legislation:
• How will this law be enforced? What exactly is the crime? Who will report it? How will the crime be proved? What will be the penalty if found guilty? Will the penalty stop the smoker involved from re-offending?
• Where is the hard evidence that passive smoking causes cancer, lung or otherwise, in children? Has there ever been an experiment with two groups of children, one group exposed to passive smoking and the other not, that has demonstrated beyond doubt that passive smoking has been the sole cause of cancer in those children who have been exposed to secondary smoke and then developed cancer? If so, has it been shown that the results are repeatable?
• What defines a child? A male or female human below the age of puberty, 16, 18, …? There is no standard definition of the word child.
• Why will the proposed new law apply if only children are in the car? What if there are adults as well or instead?
• What is meant by smoking in a car? Smoking a cigarette? What size and strength cigarette? Tailor-made and rollups? Smoked half way or down to the filter if it exists? How many cigarettes? Over what distance or amount of time? Does the car have to be moving? What about the state of the car windows – open, closed, half open, by the side of the smoker, by the side of the child? Where is the child sat relative to the smoker – front or back of the car?
• What defines a car? Is a small van classed as a car? What about larger vehicles – a bus, an 8-seater car (people wagon)? Since 2009 smoking has been banned in the UK within vehicles used for work or to transport members of the public. Additionally, the UK Highway Code advises against smoking while driving because it causes a distraction; only advises, mind you.
• If a car is considered to be a private space owned by an individual, how is such a law possible when smoking is not illegal? Would we consider banning smoking in our own homes, especially if children are present in the home? What about smoking in a car parked in our drive (on our property) and with a child in the back of the car?
• If smoking is not illegal, why bring in such a law? What problem are we solving? Is there evidence that smokers will smoke in a car if there are young children present in the car, or do smokers largely desist in deference to the unpleasantness and potential but unproven health effect on the young children?
Simon Clark, director of FOREST (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco), cites a 2010 survey of 1,000 adult smokers conducted by market researchers Holden Pearmain. The study found that 85.3% of adults who smoke said they would not smoke in a car if a child was present. A further 8.2% of the same group said that they would smoke as normal, while 6.5% said that they would ask before lighting up. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14142992
Finally, why not just ban the sale and use of cigarettes and be done with it?
2 October, 2015
Yesterday, the bill became law in England and Wales.
I quote: For the record, it’s now illegal to smoke in any vehicle when there is someone under the age of 18 inside. Adults aren’t allowed to smoke even if the car is parked with the door open, they are smoking out of the window or the sunroof is open. If someone’s caught smoking in a car with a child, both the driver and smoker would be fined £50 each.
Now the fun starts, especially as there are about 10 million smokers in the UK at the moment (about 15% of the population), one tenth of whom are under the age of 18. Given that you can legally drive a car at age 17, what happens if a 17-year-old is caught smoking a cigarette while driving a passengerless car?