MPs in the House of Commons have passed an amendment aimed at banning smoking in cars that contain children by 376 votes to 107. While the passing of this bill does not mean the ban will necessarily take place, many indications seem to suggest that it will.
The amendment already passed successfully through the House of Lords, but returned to the House of Commons to undergo further debate. MPs were given a free vote by the government on the issue.
Thanks to the passing of the amendment, which relates to the Children and Families bill, gives the government the ability to implement the ban, but they are not under any compulsion to do so. However, various sources have suggested that they are likely to do so, perhaps before the general election due to take place next year. The bill also gives the same powers to the Welsh government.
Health Minister Norman Lamb, of the Liberal Democrats, seems to support this implication. He said that, in his opinion, the passing of the bill leaves the government with “a very clear mandate now to get on and legislate.” Lamb was commenting at the time on the very decisive majority that passed the bill.
Concerns about second hand smoking and the health hazard it poses are nothing new. There have been concerns for a number of years on the matter, particularly where children are involved. Exposure to second hand smoke during childhood can lead to chest infections, asthma and even cot death. An estimated 300,000 children have to see their GP with health issues relating to second hand smoke every year.
Smoking in public indoor spaces was banned in England in 2007 due to concerns over the effects of second hand smoke. When the ban did take effect, many believed it was already overdue. Most public attention on the ban related to smoking in restaurants or bars. However, smoking inside a car can create a concentration of smoke that is 11 times greater than you would get in a bar, raising serious concerns over what it could mean for children’s health.
Some have objected that the bill affects personal liberties that should be protected for reasons of individual freedom. However, many have dismissed these claims including health minister Norman Lamb. Addressing the issue, Lamb said: “The liberty to smoke in your car in front of a child doesn’t seem to me that important and protecting a child’s health does seem to me to be incredibly important.”