The new smoking ban and why it makes sense

A new law has been passed in England and Wales, which prohibits both driver and any subsequent passengers to smoke in a car that’s carrying children. As the new law was introduced, vehicle owners were warned that they could incur a £50 penalty fee if they are found to be in breach of the legislation. However, police are taking a relaxed attitude to the recent changes and have stated they don’t intend to be overly confrontational about the matter just yet. Under the newly recommended regulations, smokers who insist on puffing, can still be fined even if they have their windows rolled down.

The ban on smoking when children are in a car comes as no surprise really. It’s already been passed in the USA as well as certain areas in Canada and Australia. The ban is not so much a one-off ruling solely based on the harmful substances that emanate from nicotine smoke, but part and parcel of a much broader context that is trying to raise awareness among drivers about all associated dangerous activities which lead to unnecessary road accidents. Therefore, the ban should be viewed as a great step in the right direction.

It has already been proven that the concoction of pollutants expired by just one smoker in the confines of a car, far exceeds the poisonous levels of a fully packed bar. That in itself should be warning enough, but as adults, we have the choice to enter or leave a bar at will. Small children, who are dependent on their adult caregivers, should not have to endure their addictive tendencies or indeed, suffer the now well-known health hazards as a result of such behaviour. Most journeys undertaken by parents with passenger children are short ones; school, shopping trips, extracurricular activities. It’s preposterous to think one can’t do without a cigarette for ten minutes.

Apart from the obvious harmful effects of smoke inhalation to all human beings, children deserve special consideration when exposed daily. They are far more susceptible to damage and disease because their lungs are still developing, so they breathe in more than their counterpart carers. They are also naturally smaller in body weight, so they inhale much more tobacco pollutants than the average adult and this can cause a variety of allergies and illnesses. Children don’t get to choose how they may travel and they shouldn’t have to choose what they inhale either. They are entitled to clean air, and as primary care-givers we should respect their health needs and adjust our own accordingly.

Putting the blatant health risk aside for a moment, there are other risk factors involved when smoking in a car that is carrying children. Although the new legislation may appear to be addressing health matters directly, it’s also trying to bring to light other activities adults nonchalantly and routinely do while driving. The use of mobile phones, eating, drinking, shaving, putting on make-up when driving has been proven to be detrimental. Impaired judgement on the road is nearly always down to distraction. When someone is driving, they should be focused entirely on that task and none other. Lighting a cigarette only takes a second but so does a fatal collision.

The new law will apply to drivers even if their windows are rolled down fully, and even those cars that have sunroofs will be liable for prosecution. Ironically, those who are lucky enough to own a convertible, and have the roof down will not be asked to refrain from smoking. With such contrasts, maybe we should be asking ourselves why would anyone even want to continue smoking in the car at all? As responsible parents, surely we can have a smoke before and after a short journey, and if we’re really desperate, can’t we pull over and park and have a cigarette outside the car?

To conclude, maybe it’s time we stopped making small, insignificant laws that don’t really hold much clout. Police have gone on record as saying that the new ban while commendable will be practically unenforceable. They’re far too busy attending to serious road accidents that frequently end in serious injury if not fatalities. At least some of these accidents are caused by distracted drivers searching for their pack of ciggies, or when they are trying to light up, while managing a steering wheel at the same time. Bearing in mind that nicotine is the number one killer component when it comes to major diseases like cancer and heart disease, perhaps it’s time we all took stock and stopped smoking altogether. For further information regarding the new legislation .

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