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Study backs smoking ban in cars to protect children; ACTION LIKELY IF RISK TO YOUNG PASSENGERS FAILS TO DECLINE.

Byline: JULIA MCWATT Health Correspondent julia.mcwatt@walesonline.co.uk

MOVES to stop people smoking in cars in Wales have been boosted by new research showing it can cause dangerously high levels of harmful pollutants - even while travelling with open windows.

A new study, published in the Tobacco Control journal, claims the level of toxins produced by smoking in cars far exceed World Health Organisation air quality standards and could affect the health of young passengers.

The findings will add weight to the Welsh Government's attempts to stamp out smoking in cars in Wales.

Senior figures in the Cardiff Bay administration have indicated they will explore a legal ban on the practice if rates can not be cut significantly within the next three years.

The study, published in the Tobacco Control journal, found that children were being exposed to harmful levels of pollutants by drivers who smoked, even if they opened a window or switched on the air-conditioning.

During the study, researchers looked at the levels of pollutants in the air during a number of journeys across the UK taken by both smokers and non-smokers.

Levels of fine particulate matter were measured every minute in the rear passenger area during typical car journeys between five to 70 minutes and averaging 27 minutes made over a three-day period.

The study, the largest of its kind, found levels of particulate matter during smoking journeys were up to ten times higher than non-smoking journeys, with some exceeding the World Health Organisation's maximum safe limit by three times as much.

Exposure to second-hand smoke is linked to several children's health problems, including sudden infant death, middle ear disease, wheeze and asthma.

The report said: "Children are likely to be at greater risk from [second-hand smoke] exposure due to their faster breathing rates, less developed immune system and their inability to move away from the source in many home and car settings.

"Exposure at the levels reported is likely to be harmful to respiratory health, and measures to remove or reduce this exposure within the confines of vehicles should be considered both in terms of individual responsibility and via legislation."

The British Medical Association has also called for the introduction of legislation on the issue.

Dr Mark Temple, member of the BMA Welsh Council, said: "Tobacco smoke is a potent cocktail of over 4,000 toxins, including 50 known to cause cancer. Smoking in the confined space of a car is therefore a toxic threat to health and people sharing a car with a smoker will be exposed to in-car particle concentrations.

Rolling down the window does not eliminate this risk.

"There is an increasing awareness amongst the general population of the risks of exposure to second hand smoke and BMA Cymru Wales support the Welsh Government campaign to stop people smoking in cars with children - it is vital that we do all we can to protect children and non-smokers from the risk of harm from second-hand smoke."

Chris Mulholland, head of the British Lung Foundation inWales, said: "Public support for legislation about this matter is overwhelming, and on the back of this growing evidence, we want the Welsh Government to grant children the same level of protection that has been afforded to the wider Welsh population through the smoke-free premises legislation, and ban smoking in cars."

The Welsh Government has launched a campaign to encourage people not to smoke in cars.

But both First Minister Carwyn Jones and Health Minister Lesley Griffiths have said the Welsh Government would consider pursuing a ban if children's exposure to second-hand smoke in cars does not start to fall within the next three years.

Mrs Griffiths said: "We launched the latest phase of the Welsh Government's three-year Fresh Start campaign this week. It is hoped this campaign will change attitudes towards smoking in cars but if evidence shows a significant number of children continue to be exposed to second-hand smoke, we will need to move to legislation."

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 16, 2012
Words:683
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