Liberal Democrat MSP for the South of Scotland Jim Hume this week launched a consultation on his Members' Bill which would see smoking banned in vehicles where children are present. When I initially flagged this up on Liberal Democrat Voice a few weeks ago, there was a mixed reaction to the proposals.
Jim says in the foreword to his consultation document:
Recent research has shown that 17% of 11-16 year olds in the UK are exposed to second-hand smoke more than once a week while in a car with a further 30% indicating exposure once a week or less. These are shocking figures. I believe we can improve on the ban on smoking in public places and places of work, further protecting our children.Research has found that second-hand tobacco smoke in cars has serious negative health impacts for children, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, coughing, wheezing, asthma and respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Not to mention the known risk of lung cancer from second hand smoke and the fact those exposed to second hand smoke as children are more likely to take up smoking themselves in later life.Some children have no option but to go into a smoke filled car en route to the school, shops or their sport. I believe we have a moral duty to protect those children from second hand smoke, which will allow children to have the freedom to get the best start in life and go on to lead healthy lives themselves. I believe we need to remove the danger of smoke filled cars and ban smoking in cars when children are present. That is why I am consulting on the intention to bring in a Member’s Bill which will prohibit tobacco smoking in cars when children are present.
The penalty Jim is proposing is similar to that for using a mobile phone while driving - an on the spot fine of £60. There would be no penalty points on a driving licence, though, as you wouldn't have to be driving to be in breach of this offence.
This might ease the concerns of some that a social services investigation would ensue on conviction.
The document contains 9 pages of hard hitting, credible medical evidence outlining the case for change. In some ways, I think that some of that should be used to create a public awareness campaign on the dangers children face if you smoke in a car near them. If Jim's measure leads to that, surely it will be a big step forward.
Scots have until 30th August to respond to the consultation, which asks 11 questions. One issue that immediately comes to mind is how to raise awareness in other parts of the UK so that visitors to Scotland are aware. You can read the whole document and find out how to respond here.