By Marcus Leach

The British Medical Association (BMA) has set out compelling scientific evidence supporting a total ban on smoking in motor vehicles.

"The UK made a huge step forward in the fight against tobacco by banning smoking in all enclosed public places, but more can still be done," BMA director of professional activities Vivienne Nathanson said.

"We are calling on UK governments to take the bold and courageous step of banning smoking in private vehicles. The evidence for extending the smoke-free legislation is compelling."

The BMA board of science briefing paper highlights evidence indicating that second-hand smoke in vehicles presents a serious health hazard, with toxin levels reaching more than 23 times those of smoky bars.

It says an estimated 4,000 adults and 23 children die each year as a result of second-hand smoke in the UK, with global figures running into the hundreds of thousands. Smoking can also be a road-safety risk and distract drivers.

The Smoking in Vehicles briefing paper says children are particularly vulnerable to second-hand smoke, as they absorb more pollutants because of their size and have underdeveloped immune systems.

"The state has a responsibility to intervene to protect children, and a ban on smoking in motor vehicles would reinforce the message that children are harmed through others’ smoking. The evidence suggests that the most feasible way to accomplish this is to implement a complete ban on smoking in motor vehicles," BMA public health medicine committee co-chair Keith Reid said.

A second parliamentary reading of Stockton North Labour MP Alex Cunningham’s private members bill is scheduled for this week. It calls for a ban on smoking in private vehicles where there are children present.

PHMC conference chair Douglas Noble said he hoped there would be time for the bill to be heard.

"We want to see this bill debated, and the BMA briefing paper highlights how much the medical community is behind the ban," he added.

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