British doctors are calling for a ban on smoking in vehicles as part of the UK’s efforts to have “a tobacco-free society by 2035.” Should the US propose a similar ban?
It’s already against the law to smoke in buses, taxis and other public vehicles in the UK. Yesterday, the British Medical Association (BMA) issued a report outlining three ways in which that law could be extended to private vehicles:
- The ban could apply only to cars carrying children.
- The ban could apply to any car with a passenger of any age.
- The ban could apply to all vehicles at all times.
The BMA favors the third option as it would be the most easy to enforce; a complete ban seems most likely to provide the greatest benefits to everyone’s health. Secondhand smoke gets especially concentrated inside a vehicle: 23 children 4,000 adults are estimated to die each year because of the effects of secondhand smoke in the UK.†Furthermore, “fiddling” with cigarettes poses another distraction to drivers. British police are already able to write tickets for drivers who are distracted by smoking.
Drivers in California already cannot smoke if there are passengers under the age of 18. Five of Australia’s six states have bans on smoking in cars with teens or children and, in South Africa, it is illegal to smoke if there are children 12 and under in your car.
Tobacco smoke contains 4,000 known chemicals, 69 of which are known or probable carcinogens so, if you’re in a car with the windows shut and someone is smoking, you and all those carcinogens are sealed in together. The dangers of smoking are certainly well-known: smoking raises the risk of lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and many other diseases. According to the BMA, children are even more vulnerable to secondhand smoke than adults due to their immune systems being less developed; they actually ďabsorb more pollutants because of their size.”
Given all this, you’d think it would be hard not to ban smoking in all vehicles. But should such a ban be proposed in the US, you can already hear the objections about government imposing its legislative arm on individual freedoms. After all, what better represents Americans’ sense of their personal freedom and individual rights than doing whatever they d**n well please in their privacy of their own cars?
Should there be an all-out ban on smoking in vehicles in the US? Would it be worthwhile to start by proposing a ban on smoking in vehicles with children?
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