Deborah Arnott, of Action on Smoking and Health (unlike her pal Sheila Duffy at ASH Scotland) definitely wants legislation: 'While we can't pass legislation to prohibit smoking in the home, smoking in cars can and should be prohibited by law.'
Reports on Northern Ireland (link above) say that nine out of ten households want a smoking ban in cars. This suggests that most people are likely to consider the perceived sensitivities of children to smoke, and that legislation is not needed.
I adopt the general view that respiratory problems in children have increased while smoking has decreased and see no reason to attribute breathing problems in children to smoking. I don't have children, nor do I drive and only smoke on a very irregular basis so don't have any personal slant on the issue.
My big question is, if they suspect that secondary smoke is dangerous, why have they left protecting children so late in the day? They have been campaigning on secondary smoke since the 1970s:
... the last 40 years have seen an incredible amount of expenditure on studies, press releases, TV ads and such things all designed to play up the fear of wisps of smoke in pursuit of the strategy laid out at the 1975 World Conference on Smoking and Health chaired by Sir George Godber. The consensus of that conference was that to achieve the public support needed to eventually eliminate smoking it would first be necessary 'to foster an atmosphere where it was perceived that active smokers would injure those around them.'Since they had all this ammunition at their disposal, the simplest thing would have been to protect the children by first of all campaigning about them. They didn't do that: they decided to protect adults instead, and run the risk of further exposing children in the process. Now their strategy is to come back and say: 'the adults are protected: it's only right that now we protect the children', yet bydoing things in this order they have left children 'exposed' for years.
Their objective is and always has been opposing smoking, not protecting health. Had children's health been a factor they would not even have run the risk that parents would smoke more at home. Given the number of pub closures over the past four years it is very hard to believe stories like this: but even if they are true, the possibility of displacing parental smoking to the home, given the dangers now posited, should have made the smoking ban untenable.
I really doubt whether home smoking has done very much damage. I was brought up in a 'smoking household', in that my father smoked until I was ten. But we lived in a big draughty house. I have lived in houses where the smoke was more noticeable. One was a converted flat, where condensation on colder mornings would gather in puddles on the window sills and drip on to the floor. Someone did smoke there, but the problem was not smoke, it was over-tight windows, no chimney, etc.
We were brought up learning that damp housing hurt people's health. Substandard housing and bad air will hurt children's health. The debate on cars must be left to people with more experience of children's health and car interiors, but really the call to ban smoking in cars has come far too late in the day to take seriously as a major health risk. Dame Helena Shovelton of the British Lung Foundation declared: 'Smoking just one cigarette, even with the car window open, creates a greater concentration of second-hand smoke than a whole evening’s smoking in a pub or a bar.' By not tackling this stupendous problem before tackling smoking in pubs, they have ruined their own case.