We do not allow children to smoke because of the obvious risks that cigarettes pose to their health. But there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that unless we protect them from the effects of second-hand smoke (SHS) then we might as well buy them a packet of Marlboro Lights ourselves.
The British Medical Association and other experts have told us that SHS exposure can lead to illnesses from glue ear and asthma attacks to meningitis and lung cancer, and can be a risk factor in cot death.
The ban on smoking in public places has made a big difference and helped reduce exposure to SHS. But smoking in vehicles is a source of concentrated SHS and, as children are still developing, they are at particular risk.
Children don’t have an option when they are in the enclosed environment of a smoke filled car on the school run. It is estimated that there are 60,000 car journeys every week with children exposed to SHS in Scotland.
This is why I have brought forward a Bill that would stop people from smoking in cars while children are present.
As a liberal, I am naturally suspicious of people who seek to ban something at the first sign of trouble. But the damage that SHS can do to children is such that I know that this is the right approach here.
This week, my Bill passed its next hurdle as the Scottish Parliament Health Committee gave their backing to my plan. MSPs on the Committee said that “education campaigns alone have not succeeded in protecting children from exposure to second-hand smoke in vehicles” and that it supports “this legislation as a necessary step.”
This means that my Member’s Bill has the backing of the Labour Party, the Scottish Government, the British Medical Association, the British Lung Foundation and many other organisations. This is welcome. I don’t think that keeping children healthy should be a party political issue.
Over the next few months, my Bill is likely to come to the chamber of the Scottish Parliament for debate. We are another step closer to helping ensure that every child has the chance to get a healthy start in life.