The New South Wales government has taken the first step towards banning the smoking of cigarettes in cars with children. This follows the recent introduction of such bans in South Australia and Tasmania. The Minister responsible for Cancer, Verity Firth, has announced that a discussion paper will be released in the coming month as a prelude to drafting legislation.
This really should be a no-brainer. In fact, the real question is why have we waited so long? It is amazing that there are some people who still do it, but apparently there are. Exposing young children to cigarette smoke in an enclosed environment such as a car is obviously harmful, so such a law is easily justified. However, some are questioning whether it can be enforced.
It’s true that it may be difficult to police, and many people might continue the practice and get away with it. But the point is that others won’t. Some will be caught, and some will actually respect the law. Others will be the subject of criticism from their families and friends. It will make a difference. Not to impose such a law amounts to condoning the practice, and given what we now know about the health effects of passive smoking, that’s no longer appropriate.
As I have said many times before, I am in favour of going further and banning smoking in cars altogether. There are three reasons for this. One is obviously the health argument. The second is the safety question. Handheld phones are illegal, but cigarettes are not? That makes no sense when you consider the danger caused if somebody accidentally drops a burning cigarette in their lap while driving! The third reason is that if you are not smoking in your car then you are not throwing butts out of the window, causing environmentally damaging litter, and creating a significant bushfire risk.
All in all, there is no good reason for anybody to smoke in a car at any time.