More than 700 health experts have put their names to a letter in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) urging MPs to back a ban on smoking in cars when children are travelling as passengers (BBC News).
The signatories to the letter, which argues that second-hand smoke exposure is a "major cause of ill-health in children", include nurses, doctors and surgeons.
The issue is due to be voted on in Parliament on Monday 10 February, after the House of Lords last week backed a Labour amendment to the Children and Families Bill. The Government has given its MPs a free vote on the issue.
The letter has been co-ordinated by Dr Nicholas Hopkinson, from Imperial College London. It says smoking in cars exposes children to particularly "high amounts of tobacco smoke" and there is now a consensus that children should be protected from such unnecessary hazards.
Dr Hopkinson told BBC News: "Next week, MPs have a chance to help protect children from the proven dangers of second-hand smoke.
"If they vote in favour, it could help protect the health of literally hundreds of thousands of children nationwide. If they vote against, it will go down in history as a huge missed opportunity."
In response, Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest, said: "Smoking in cars with children is inconsiderate but there is a line the state shouldn’t cross when it comes to dictating how people behave in private places.
"Very few adults smoke in a car with children these days. We urge MPs to reject this unnecessary intrusion into people’s private lives and trust parents to make the right decision for their children without the need for heavy-handed state intervention."
Calls to prohibit smoking in private vehicles when children are present have been raised on several occasions since the 2007 ban on smoking in public places came into effect.
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