Car smoking ban 'will help break the chain'

Published date: 31 January 2014 |
Published by: Rhian Waller 
Read more articles by Rhian Waller  Email reporter


THIS week, members of the second chamber of the UK government gave their consent to two parts of the Children and Families Bill.

The first is a ban on what health campaigners have described as “glitzy” cigarette packaging.

The second is a ban on smoking in a vehicle when a child is present.

Those caught having a cigarette while someone under-18 is travelling with them could soon be slapped with a £60 fine – but only in England.

Wales was the first country in the UK to adopt a public smoking ban, which became law in 2007.

Since then, the Welsh Government has kept a close eye on smoking regulation, although it told the BBC it would only adopt a ban on smoking in vehicles carrying children if current anti-smoking campaigns failed to get the message across.

Welsh Government figures show the number of people smoking in cars has declined in any case.

A Welsh Government report published late last year found that in November 2012, 78 per cent of adults across Wales with access to a car did not allow smoking in their main car – up from 71 per cent in September 2011.

Clare Williams, 41, of Holywell, has been a long-term smoker.

The former St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School pupil said: “I’ve smoked since I was 11. My parents smoked – but I might have smoked anyway as all my mates did.

“We didn’t have all the adverts back then like you do now, telling you how bad it is for you.

“To be honest, I knew it was bad for me but that never really bothered me.

“I smoked up until I found out I was pregnant. I gave up during both pregnancies and then started smoking again quite soon afterwards.”

But something about having Luke, now 18, and Jack, now 15, changed Clare’s behaviour.

She stopped smoking in the house, refused to smoke while driving and made every effort to shield her children from her habit.

She said: “If I did smoke in front of them, it was very rarely and we’d be outside. But I realised I’d wanted kids so much and being blessed to have them, why would I even think of putting their health at risk?”

Clare, who used to run a playgroup in Holywell before she found full time work in Mold, even stopped eating in the smoking areas of pubs, back before the public smoking ban began, even when the children were not with her.

She said: “I realised I didn’t like it. I didn’t want people smoking round me when I was eating.

“My partner smokes and the odd thing is that I’ll smoke in his car if the children aren’t with us. He won’t smoke if he’s driving the kids.”

Although her eldest boy Luke is now technically old enough to buy cigarettes himself, neither of her sons have taken up smoking.

She said: “I’m glad of that for their health. They’ve broken the cycle.

“I think people are more aware of passive smoking, especially with those NHS adverts showing you just how much a child is breathing in.

“I’ve definitely cut down because I haven’t had as many opportunities to smoke over the years.”

Victoria Woodward, a lecturer in psychology for Glyndwr University in Wrexham, specialises in studies of addictive behaviour.

She warned that, while a ban on smoking while driving with minors might prevent passive smoking, it would not have as dramatic effect on a smoker’s habits as the wide-reaching smoking ban brought in in Wales almost seven years ago.

Nor will it necessarily immediately start protecting children from second-hand smoke.

She said: “The process of abstaining from smoking is not the same as fully accepting a life-change.

“People who do that will typically regress two to seven times before they make a permanent change, so it’s likely parents will lapse a number of times and continue to smoke in an enclosed space.”

Ms Woodward added that reducing the amount of time children saw smoking behaviour could reduce the likelihood of them smoking in later life.

She said: “There are plenty of studies dating back to the 80s that suggest we overwhelmingly learn our behaviour from our peers – although some people will rebel and say ‘No, I’ve seen what it’s done to my parents. I’m never going to smoke’.

“So restricting a child's exposure to smoking could impact on their choices later in life.”

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