Smoking in cars that are carrying children could soon be banned.
The House of Lords has backed a Labour plan to ban smoking in cars where children are present, despite opposition from the government.
Ministers had argued that the new law was a “blunt instrument” and public information campaigns were preferable. But a free vote on the proposals will take place among MPs when the bill returns from the Lords, and if the bill was to be passed drivers would be committing an offence if they failed to prevent smoking in their vehicles when a child was in the car.
A similar ban is already enforced in Australia, Canada, five US states, and across South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham says it is time Britain followed suit.
He told Sky News: “When it comes to improving the health of children, we are duty bound to consider any measure that might make a difference.
“Adults are free to make their own choices but that often does not apply to children and that’s why society has an obligation to protect them from preventable harm.”
However, the measure has been strongly opposed by pro-smoking lobby group Forest, who said the law would be difficult to enforce, was ‘heavy handed’ and disproportionate.
“We think legislation is a very heavy-handed way of tackling this problem, said Forest director Simon Clark. “The vast majority of smokers wouldn’t dream of lighting a cigarette in a car with a child.
“We don’t need legislation that would be very, very difficult to enforce. Our concern is that people will then say ‘Let’s have a ban on smoking in all private vehicles’ so you could have a lone driver on his own in his own vehicle lighting a cigarette and he would be committing an offence.”
What the penalty would be for committing such an offence has not been confirmed, but the likelihood it would be similar to the current punishment for using your mobile phone while driving – three penalty points and a fines of around £100.