17:27 Tuesday 11 February 2014

Children's health is key in smoking ban

Written bySARAH BOULD

BANNING smoking in vehicles when children are passengers has evoked some strong feeling among people in Burton.

The issue has been brought to the forefront following a House of Commons vote on Monday night which saw the majority of MPs backing calls for a ban, which could be enforced before the next general election in 2015.

Burton’s MP Andrew Griffiths voted in favour of the motion, as did South Derbyshire MP Heather Wheeler. Andrew Bridgen, the MP for North West Leicestershire, voted against it.

Mr Griffiths told the Mail: “What I would say is that I don’t want to interfere in people’s civil liberties but I think that everyone accepts that smoking in a car with small children in is hugely damaging to their health. The most important thing is the signal it sends out about the consequences on the health of a child when you light up when children are around.”

Despite the vote, some people have slammed the idea, saying it would create a ‘nanny state’, and others have questioned how exactly it would be enforced.

People in Burton have mixed views on the subject. Mail reader Kevin Porter said: “I think parents should care for their children enough not to do it anyway, not wait for Government to pass a law about it.”

Branston mum Clare Goulding said: “I totally agree with this. Since being pregnant with my first son my husband no longer smokes in the car or even the house because of me passive smoking. More than four years later he still doesn’t smoke in the car because of the smoke lingering and getting into my boys’ car seats. I hate seeing parents smoking with young ones in the car.”

Smokers also gave their point of view. Cassie Middleton said: “What is there to think about? Any parent that can think that this is acceptable in any way shouldn’t have kids.

“Why should they be put in front of a habit; I smoke but would never smoke around my kids.”

Other people echoed her views. Sarah Hooper said a parent shouldn’t even consider smoking in a confined space with them if they cared about their child, stating: “There shouldn’t have to be a law passed, it should be a natural parenting instinct.”

However Colin Dainty said he felt it went against freedom of choice. He said: “We all know it’s not good to smoke around children but that’s our freedom of choice.”

The amendment was passed by 376 votes to 107. It empowers ministers to make it a criminal offence for drivers to fail to prevent smoking in their privately owned vehicles if children are present.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Secondhand smoke is harmful to children and it is right that this has been debated in Parliament. We will now determine how this amendment should be taken forward.”

Simon Clark, director of smokers’ lobby group Forest, said smoking in cars with children was ‘inconsiderate’, but there was ‘a line the state shouldn’t cross when it comes to dictating how people behave in private places’.

Now legislation could be introduced in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech. It would see those who flout the ban facing a fine and points on their licences.

Mail reader Matt Coello, from Church Gresley, said: “Anyone who thinks this is wrong should be disgusted with themselves. You wouldn’t force alcohol down a child’s throat so why is smoking any different?”

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