The amendment, (number 263), which will be put to a vote in the House of Lords on Wednesday, calls for smoking in private cars when children are present to be made an offence.
A person caught smoking with children in the car, even with the windows down, would either have to attend a ‘smoke-free’ driving awareness course or pay a fee of £60.
According to research compiled by the British Medical Association (BMA), non-smokers that travel in cars in which people smoke are exposed to toxin levels more than times greater than in homes where people smoke.
Children are at particular risk from second-hand smoke in cars as they absorb more pollutants and have an underdeveloped immune system compared to adults.
The association’s briefing paper in 2011, which called on the Government to extend smoke-free legislation to include a ban on smoking in private cars, argued that children do not have the same choices as adults and might be unable to refuse to take a journey in a smoky vehicle.
Reports suggest that if Labour’s attempt to change the law fails, the party will pledge to impose a smoking ban in private vehicles if they win next year’s general election.
Professor Sheila Hollins, chair of the British Medical Association’s Board of Science, said, ‘The BMA believes the proposed offence of failing to prevent smoking in private vehicles when children are present, is an important first step in reducing tobacco harm by restricting the prevalence of second hand smoke in private vehicles.
‘Children are still developing physically and biologically and compared to adults they breathe more rapidly, absorb more pollutants and have less developed immune systems. As a result, they are more susceptible to the harmful effects of second hand smoke and are less likely to be able to choose to move away from it.
‘Adults who smoke in the presence of children are not acting in the children’s best interest; therefore it is the Government’s duty to change legislation in order to protect them.’
Dr Samantha Walker, deputy chief executive of Asthma UK, said, 'Second-hand smoke is harmful to children, it can both cause asthma and trigger asthma attacks. Asthma UK strongly advises that parents should avoid smoking in cars when children are present as cigarette smoke can become very concentrated – winding the window down does not resolve the problem.'