No Smoke Please, There Are Children Present


I think back to my childhood, and whilst we sit in my mother’s car, I remember there being a very conspicuous no smoking sign being in the front windscreen. My mother is a GP; and when I asked her why this was the case, she said she suspected that smoking even around children was harmful- although the evidence at the time was, to say the least, limited.

Nowadays, this appears to have become near-unassailable fact. Studies have demonstrated that passive smoking is (on balance of probabilities) responsible for conditions from an increase in tooth decay, through Inflammatory Bowel Disease and even sudden infant death (and whilst there is a good reference for that last point I’m refusing to link to it because it’s produced by Elsevier– and so you can’t get to it anyway).

I do not believe this is a household issue rather a matter of child protection and the bill is specific about banning smoking with children present.

Lord Ribeiro
Baron of Achimota in the Republic of Ghana and Ovington in the County of Hampshire

To that end, Lord Ribeiro, of the Conservative Party, has put forward a bill in the House of Lords to ban persons in private vehicles smoking when children are present. This may seem out of step with the Conservative “What I do in my home is my business” mentality, and is probably not in keeping with the early promise to “roll back state intrusion” (not that this seems to matter lately). When I asked him about this, he pointed out that “the government has just completed a two month awareness programme to raise awareness of smoking issues, including smoking in family cars and the home.” Adding that he would challenge the view that legislation was not a live issue, by bringing this bill.

Lord Ribeiro was formerly a surgeon, and the bill is certainly influenced by the experiences in that career. “Doctors faced with the evidence of smoking and cancer were the first to give up smoking” he wrote in his email.

When quizzed about enforcement, he argued that whilst that was an important aspect, “it did not prevent the ban on mobile phones [when driving]”; “Education rather than punishment is the key”, he added.

The exact wording of the bill is such that someone who fails to ensure that the vehicle is smoke-free in the presence of minors will find themselves liable to either pay a £60 fine or attend an awareness course. For a second offense, the £60 fine will be the only option available. It extends to England only.

The author makes a point of retaining full emails from persons of office. The entire contents of the exchange with Lord Ribeiro is available on request.


Philip Adler is a Ph. D. Student of Crystallography, studying in Chemistry.

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