This week saw the launch of the Welsh Governments public health campaign to raise awareness of the dangers to children from exposure to second hand smoke in cars, Fresh Start Wales.
Although Tenovus welcome this initiative, we can’t help asking, is this enough?
The evidence is clear on the harmful health effects of passive smoking in cars, with children being the most vulnerable with their immune systems still developing and faster breathing rates. The effect on your health through inhailing smoke while in a confined space range from asthma and middle ear infections to potentially life threatening conditions such as bacterial meningitis. 48% of smokers are smoking in their cars and over half of all 8-15 year olds say they have been exposed to smoke in a car.
If these statistics are not worrying enough, exposure rates are higher in areas of deprivation, which falls in line with the % of smokers being generally higher. Opening the car window does not help, dangerous levels of particulate matter will still be present in the car two hours after a cigarette has been smoked.
So, armed with all these facts and figures perhaps we should be looking at alternative interventions other countries have successfully implemented and proved to be effective...actually making smoking in cars which hold children illegal in Wales.
A smoking in cars ban is in place across Australia, most of Canada and a number of American states. Recent research from Canada has provided the most compelling evidence yet with the biggest fall in children’s exposure to second hand smoke in cars occurring just as legislation was introduced.
Here in Wales 83 % of us support a ban of smoking in cars with children present, so why wait? While we support and will help promote the Fresh Start Wales campaign we don’t think it will be enough to illicit behaviour change in smokers and to adequately protect children.
The Welsh Government will monitor the campaign and have told us they will consider introducing legislation if the ban proves ineffective, but let’s hope we don’t have to wait a full three years until the end of the campaign before Wales are the first European country to ban smoking in cars.