My Bill: Passed at last

Yesterday, my bill to protect children from the effects of second hand smoke in cars was passed at Holyrood with the support of MSPs from all parties.

This important change to the law will mean those lighting up in the car when children are present will be receive a fine of £100.

We have seen how effective changes in the law have been in cutting the number of people using their phones behind the wheel. This new legislation will help protect the estimated 60,000 children who are exposed to second hand smoke in cars every week in Scotland at present.

Speaking during the debate, Labour MSP Jenny Marra said:

“When I think back to jobs that I have had in bars, exposed for hours on end to a thick fug of smoke when I was a student 20 years ago, and the stench of that smoke on my hair and clothes when I finished my shift – these are conditions that we simply would not tolerate now.”

She is right. Attitudes change over time and I believe that in time we will look back and wonder why there was ever any question over whether stopping people smoking in cars while children are present was the right thing to do.

This change had already been made in England. I am pleased that we are now protecting children in Scotland too.

Research shows that children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to become smokers themselves. What’s more, by reducing the exposure to second-hand smoke in vehicles will not only have immediate benefits in protecting children’s respiratory systems, it will also reduce the likelihood of them developing respiratory conditions in the future.

Asthma, sudden infant death syndrome and lung cancer have all been linked to exposure to second hand smoke. Children’s lungs are still developing. With smoke in cars 11 times as concentrated as was the case in pubs before the smoking ban, the risks to health are clear.

That is why this legislation is so important. I again thank all members on the Health and Sport Committee for their constructive work, the ministerial team, fellow members, the numerous charities, organisations, academics and my own office staff who helped get this bill through.

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