Fresh Start Wales campaign – Gazette column, February 2012

Fresh Start Wales poster
Fresh Start Wales poster

“Smoking in cars, poisons your children”. With these words I launched the ‘Fresh Start Wales’ campaign to protect children from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke in cars.

Research published in July 2011 painted a very worrying picture of the numbers of children in Wales being exposed to smoke in cars. I announced that if children’s exposure to second-hand smoke did
not start to decline within the next three years, the Welsh Government would consider pursuing a ban on smoking in cars. The Labour-led Welsh Government ‘Fresh Start Wales’ campaign aims to raise awareness of parents, grandparents and carers on the importance of protecting their children from the dangers of toxic chemicals in smoke.

Exposure to smoke is known to have many health risks including increased chance of respiratory problems, asthma, middle ear disease and bacterial meningitis. Children who grow up with parents or siblings who smoke are 90 per cent more likely to become smokers themselves, perpetuating long-term health problems across generations.

Children do not have a choice about their environment and it lies with parents and carers to ensure safe and smoke-free surroundings for their children. I can’t imagine why any person would feel it is acceptable to smoke in the confines of a car where children are present. There is no ‘safe’ level of exposure to second-hand smoke, with high levels of dangerous particles remaining present in cars up to two hours after lighting up a cigarette. Winding down the windows to air the car out makes little difference.

Wales was the first country in the UK to vote in favour of a ban on smoking in public places. Such legislation is important in principle and in practice, for discouraging smoking and protecting non-smokers and children from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke. People and businesses have adapted to the legislation and it is now taken for granted that people will not be confronted by rooms full of smoke when they socialise in restaurants and bars. Social attitudes have shifted tremendously from the days where smoking in offices or on trains was the norm.

It is my hope that attitudes will continue to shift to the point where individuals who do not wish to be subject to second-hand smoke, will not find themselves in environments where they suffer the
harmful effects of other people’s habits. For this reason Wales will not shy away from introducing a ban on smoking in cars with children, if we do not see a clear change to the levels of smoking in cars over the next few years.

With ‘Fresh Start Wales’ we can aim to support people to improve their health and that of their children, which is crucial to the safety and well-being of people in Bridgend and all across Wales.

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