smokingThere has been a concerted effort via the lobbying of a 700-strong group of nurses, doctors and other health professionals to call for a ban on smoking in cars. JFHC and JSPHN editor Penny Hosie adds her voice to the calls:

Some might still argue this is an infringement of civil liberties, but the pro-ban lobbyists say the fact smoke contained in cars exposes children to far greater levels of toxins than used to be inhaled by adults in smoky bars is just one of a multitude of persuasive pro-ban arguments.

According to the pro-ban lobbyists, even when the car window is wound down, the deadly combination of carcogenic and other toxic substances contained within cigarette smoke, doesn’t dissipate for more than two hours.

Unlike decades ago there is widespread acceptance that smoking is bad for our health. It helps that evidence is widely available to prove exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke increases the risk of a whole host of health problems including ear infections, meningitis and cot death.

While I am all for civil freedoms, when it comes to a child’s health we can no longer afford to be complacent nor do we have the right, as adults, to knowingly pass on a devastating legacy of ill health to vulnerable young people.

I have first hand experience of the devastating effects of smoking on a child’s health. One of my earliest childhood memories is peering through a hospital window to peek at my critically ill older sister. Placed in an oxygen tent she was fighting a pneumonia infection which nearly killed her not once, but twice. My young parents were beside themselves with grief and worry…. I still haven’t had the heart to tell my mother that her heavy daily smoking habit may have contributed to the illness.

My sister now has weak lungs and unfortunately my niece has inherited this weakness and has herself been hospitalised several times during her own childhood due to pneumonia.

My mother is still in the depths of addiction and in denial. Although she has considerably cut down on the daily number of cigarettes she smokes, she still finds it impossible to break the habit which is 50+ years long.

There are other sound reasons for banning smoking in cars. It is a worrying fact that teenagers are still taking up smoking in droves. It is still perceived to be ‘cool’. If it is banned in cars then although there will always be many who will enjoy rebelliously ignoring this, it also sends a clear message that it has been sanctioned because it is so dangerous to health.

Midwives can continue supporting pregnant teenage mothers by reinforcing the message that smoking is not only bad for their own health but that of their unborn child – and future grandchildren.

Perhaps we should also educate children on how smoking can affect their fertility and shock them by showing how it can be a contributing factor to tragic cases of cot death and chronic asthma. Perhaps simply telling them smoking is bad for their health and can kill is simply not good enough. They need to know some more of the detail, to understand how it affects their lives more immediately.

We owe it not just to the current generation of children, but to future generations, to take this stand. Are you in?