Smoking in Private Cars Could Be Stubbed Out

By Ariel Nagi 11/17/11

UK doctors call on their government to ban smoking in all vehicles. US states, with differing laws, will watch with interest.

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It's already illegal in most places to smoke on public buses, trains and taxis, but now smoking in private vehicles is under scrutiny. An organization representing British doctors is calling on the UK government to make it illegal to smoke in your own car. Several US states—including Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine and Oregon—already ban smoking in cars when children are present. The British Medical Association (BMA) says drivers and passengers get exposed to 23 times more toxins than they would in a smoky bar, while second-hand smoke is particularly dangerous for children, whose bodies absorb more pollutants. And US physicians agree. "Smoking in enclosed spaces is especially dangerous," Dr. Jonathan Whiteson, director of the Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and Wellness Center at NYU Langone Medical Center, tells CBS News. "Outdoors, smoke gets carried away on the breeze—one puff and it goes away." But in a car, he says, smoke is recycled, and toxic residue can remain even after the air has cleared. The BMA released a report calling for action, in the hope of having a tobacco-free society by 2035. It estimates that about 23 children and 4,000 adults die as a result of second-hand smoke each year in the UK. It adds that smoking can be a dangerous distraction for drivers; British police can already write a ticket for smoking in a car if they feel it has impaired driving. Will the ban be passed? Recent polls show some support: 88% of people in Ireland and 74% of people in England said they favor a ban on smoking in cars containing kids.

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