Doctors demand smoking ban in private cars
LONDON (Reuters) - Smokers should be banned from lighting up in all private cars as part of stricter laws to protect children from passive smoking, a doctors' group said in a report on Wednesday.
The Royal College of Physicians, a professional body with 20,000 members, said the 2007 ban on smoking in enclosed public places in England must be extended to cars and other areas, like the entrances to buildings.
Smoking in cars carrying children is already against the law in some parts of the United States, Canada and Australia. Other countries, including Italy and the Netherlands, are considering similar bans.
Any extension to the UK ban would attract criticism from pro-smoking groups, who saw the original restrictions as an attack on personal freedom.
"Protecting children is a health priority. Adult smoking behaviour must radically change to achieve that," Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson said in a foreword to the report by the college's tobacco advisory group.
The ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces should be widened to include all private cars, whether or not children are travelling as passengers, the report said.
It could also include parks, beaches, hotels, prisons, hostels and open sports arenas or concert venues.
"Smoke-free legislation has been successful but should be extended much more widely, to include public places frequented by children and young people," the report said.
Passive smoking costs the National Health Service more than 23 million pounds a year and leads to 300,000 extra visits to doctors for illnesses like chest infections and asthma, the report said.
Pro-smoking group Forest has questioned the evidence on the dangers of passive smoking and thinks it is being used to "demonise smokers" and justify a blanket ban.
"The anti-smoking lobby propagate a falsehood hoping that a lie told often enough becomes the truth," it said on its website.
A Department of Health spokesman said the government was looking at ways to give children greater protection from passive smoking, which kills around 600 people a year in Britain.
(Editing by Steve Addison)
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