Earlier this summer, Wales announced it will be launching a three-year education programme to help reduce children’s exposure to cigarette smoke in the car. If the programme fails to protect children, Wales has pledged that it will introduce legislation to stop people from smoking in the car when children are passengers.
A ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces came into force in Scotland in 2006, however, experts said the amount of second-hand smoke children are exposed to had not changed since the ban.
A recent study in Scotland suggested air quality inside a smoker’s car was comparable to industrial smog in cities such as Beijing or Moscow – even when the driver had windows open.
In order to test the air quality in a typical smoker’s car, BBC Scotland enlisted the help of tobacco control expert, Brenda Friel who used an air monitor to measure the air quality in the back seat of a car.
Brenda Friel said:
“We’ve got a child-sized doll in the back seat of the car where the child would normally sit. We’ve got a probe at the child’s nose where a child would normally breathe. This monitor picks up fine particles that come from second-hand smoke.
“At the moment, because there’s no smoke in the car, the level is at 10.”
The owner of the vehicle drove the car as he normally would for 10 minutes, smoking a cigarette with the window open. When he returned Brenda checked the monitor.
She said: “It was registering 250 there. If you were outdoors in air quality of that level, you’d be told to go indoors and not do any physical activity. That’s the level they were measuring in pubs before the ban came in.”
While the ban on smoking in public places in Scotland has reduced the amount of second-hand smoke children are exposed to overall, it has not reduced the number of children being exposed to smoke in cars.
Dr James Cant, Head of British Lung Foundation Scotland said it had reduced in countries which had got tough on the issue, such as Australia, Canada and the USA.
Dr Cant added: “The news from Wales is very exciting.
“They’re going to engage in an intensive three-year education programme but if that doesn’t work they are going to look at a legislative option. We don’t want children in Scotland to be left behind.”