North of the Border, the war on smoking continues. Today, larger shops are no longer allowed to display cigarettes. Now, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP and health spokesperson Jim Hume is introducing a Member's Bill in the Scottish Parliament which will ban smoking in cars where children are present. His proposal will be put out to public consultation from 28th May. Talking about his plan over the weekend, he said:
The tobacco display ban is another welcome step in changing Scotland’s relationship with smoking which began with the ban in smoking in public places. But more can be done in our journey towards a healthier Scotland.
Passive smoking is entirely avoidable a
nd a private vehicle is one of the few places a child can still be legally exposed to tobacco smoke. That is why I am seeking a change in the law to safeguard the rights of children in Scotland and to give them a better start in life. My consultation to ban smoking tobacco in vehicles while children are present will be launched on the 28th May.
I stand alongside the British Heart Foundation, British Lung Foundation, Children in Scotland and ASH Scotland, amongst many others, in seeking a change to the law and hope that people and organisations from across Scotland can take part in this important consultation.
It doesn’t seem fair that any child should have to be trapped in a car which is filled with smoke. When you consider the real implications this can have for a child’s immediate and future health, it is clear we need to do what we can to protect children and give them the best start in life.
I have written several times about this issue over the year. In 2011, when Labour came up with this proposal, I said:
I think that the smoking ban introduced in 2006 by the Liberal Democrat/Labour coalition is one of the best pieces of legislation ever, because it strikes the right balance between freedom to smoke, and freedom to breathe air free from the poisons in cigarette smoke. That covers public space, though. What about private space? If we ban smoking in cars, surely there’s an argument to ban it in houses? And alcohol is harmful too – we know about the effects of growing up with parents who abuse alcohol. Do we ban drinking in a house where there are under 18s? What about obesity? Do we give the state the right to go through people’s food cupboards and fine per chocolate bar or crisp packet because obesity is such a problem and is going to cost us a fortune in the future? If the issue is with the proven risks of cigarette smoke in a very confined space, you don’t get much more confined than a womb. Do we ban smoking in pregnancy? Even if we thought that was a good idea, which I don’t, how on earth do you enforce that?
My view hasn't changed since then and in fact I spoke to someone last week who said that a conviction of this nature might well end up with parents being automatically investigated by social services which might stretch already insufficient resources even further.
Having said all of that, I have a great deal of sympathy with the arguments in favour of such a measure and I do think that smoking around children at all is horribly inconsiderate and takes unacceptable risks with their future health. This is one of those issues where you can make a liberal argument from either perspective.
It is undoubtedly a good thing that this is being debated. At least some of the risks and dangers of the practice will be discussed openly and may encourage people to change their behaviour. I wondered what LDV readers thought of the idea. Let us know in the comments below.