HEALTH chiefs in the borough have welcomed a decision by the House of Lords to ban smoking in cars carrying children.
After numerous campaigns and calls for a law to be passed, the motion put forward by the Labour party was accepted by the house yesterday.
The amendment brought by Lord Hunt, Lord Faulkner and Baroness Hughes will make it an offence for drivers of a private vehicle to fail to prevent smoking when a child is present.
One supporter of the ban is Dr Kate Ardern, Wigan’s director of public health.
Dr Ardern said: “Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, 60 of which we know cause cancer.
“Because cars are small, enclosed spaces these chemicals are concentrated and are even more dangerous, especially for any children who are on-board. Studies show that levels of second hand smoke in cars are dangerous and can be up to 11 times the levels you would find in a smoky room.
“Children suffering the effects of second hand smoke are admitted to hospital every year.
“The fact that children’s lungs are smaller and less developed means they are more vulnerable to the effects of second hand smoke and so it is vital that we do everything we can to improve awareness and reduce the risks.
“Opening a window won’t protect children, smoke free cars will.”
The Department of Health has said it believes education campaigns are a better way to discourage people from smoking around children.
Smoking was banned in England in workplaces and most enclosed public spaces in July 2007 following similar legislation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The law prohibited smoking in vehicles used for work.
But the pro-smoking group Forest disputes such claims.
Director Simon Clark said: “Legislation is completely unnecessary. Most adult smokers accept that smoking in a car with children present is inconsiderate and the overwhelming majority choose not to. Education, not legislation, is the way forward.”
The campaign to pass the law was backed by organisations including the British Heart Foundation, Asthma UK, the Royal College of Paediatrics, and Child Health.
Shadow health secretary and Labour MP for Leigh, Andy Burnham, said: “When it comes to improving the health of children, we are duty bound to consider any measure that might make a difference.
“Adults are free to make their own choices but that often does not apply to children and that’s why society has an obligation to protect them from preventable harm.
“Evidence from other countries shows that stopping smoking in the confined space of a car carrying children can prevent damage to their health and has strong public support.”