Smokers who light up in vehicles with children present face a £50 fine from today – but the real penalty could be far worse, as little ones subjected to secondhand smoke in cars face increased risk of potentially life-threatening illnesses like meningitis, bronchitis – and even cancer.
That’s the stark message from Public Health England and Fresh Smoke Free North East today, as Stoptober begins on the same day a new law banning smoking in vehicles transporting under 18s comes into force.
Stop smoking services in places like Asda pharmacy in South Bank, Redcar Library, The Manor Hub in Coulby Newham and The Life Store in Middlesbrough were preparing to be inundated with people wanting to stub out cigarettes from today, as the nation’s 28-day mass-quit attempt Stoptober gets underway.
But this year’s campaign has also been given a boost by the new law, which gives children legal protection from the 4,000-plus dangerous chemicals in secondhand smoke when they are passengers in any vehicle – and smokers one more reason to kick their deadly habit for good.
Campaign group Fresh, which is aiming to make smoking history across the North-east, conducted an experiment highlighting the dangers of exposure to second-hand smoke in vehicles, in partnership with Newcastle University and Public Health England.
The study tested the levels of dangerous chemicals children can be exposed to while in the back seat of a car when a driver is smoking.
It found that even with the window open, levels of dangerous chemicals were still more than 100 times higher than recommended safety guidelines.
With windows closed and the vehicle’s fan running, this rose to 200 times higher than safety guidelines – with the amount of poisonous killer Carbon Monoxide (CO) two to three times higher than on a busy road in rush hour.
Lisa Surtees, acting director of Fresh, said: “This law is incredibly popular, with 88% of adults in the North-east supporting it. We also expect it will be largely self-enforcing, as with the smoke free law in 2007.
“It will bring major health benefits as many more people will realise this law is for a very good reason and protect their children.”
Ms Surtees added it was “really important” to give children “legal protection” from smoking in cars – and help them avoid contracting serious illnesses like bronchitis.
She said: “Most smokers nowadays avoid smoking around children, but a significant number of children are still exposed to smoke which contains harmful poisons like carbon monoxide and arsenic and puts them at increased risk of meningitis and respiratory infections.”
More than 50 of the 4,000 chemicals in secondhand smoke are also known to cause cancer.
But despite this, about three million children in England are exposed to the smoke in vehicles – 80% of which is invisible.
Exposure to secondhand smoke results in more than 300,000 GP consultations and an estimated 9,500 hospital admissions in the UK each year.
The ban on smoking in cars is supported by the British Lung Foundation, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and Public Health England.
This year, Middlesbrough Council, Middlesbrough Football Club’s charity MFC Foundation and Cleveland Police are all backing Stoptober – alongside well-know comedians Bill Bailey, Al Murray, Rhod Gilbert and Shappi Khorsandi.
This year’s theme, ‘This time, it’s personal’ centres on quitting with a partner, friend or colleague. Research shows smokers are two-thirds (67%) more likely to quit if their partner also stops and a third more likely to quit when a close friend (36%) or someone they work with (34%) quits.
You can get help to quit from Stop Smoking services on Teesside, or why not sign up to this year’s Stoptober campaign?
Smoking could lead to £50 fine
Drivers could be fined £50 if they smoke in a vehicle where an under-18 is present. Where a passenger is found to be smoking in a vehicle transporting minors, both the driver and the smoker could be fined. The law does not apply to drivers aged 17 who smoke – unless there is someone else under the age of 18 in the vehicle with them. The law does not apply to a convertible with the roof completely down, but any private vehicle enclosed even partially by a roof – whether or not the sunroof and/or windows are open – is subject to the law.