Secondhand smoke campaign launch coincides with vote ending smoking in cars with children - 12 February 2015

Secondhand smoke campaign launch coincides with vote ending smoking in cars with children - 12 February 2015
  •  New laws will make it illegal to smoke in private vehicles carrying under 18s in England
  • Regulations to protect the 26% of 11-15 year olds who are exposed to cigarette smoke in their family’s car
  • Campaign launches to raise awareness of the dangers of secondhand smoke causes children ahead of law change on 1 October

Public Health England today launches its campaign to highlight the hidden dangers that secondhand smoke in homes and cars can cause to children’s health - following the passing by Parliament of regulations to end smoking in cars carrying children in England. Smoke In Cars

Secondhand smoke is particularly harmful to children as they breathe more rapidly and have less developed airways. Children being exposed to secondhand smoke results in more than 300,000 GP consultations and 9,500 hospital admissions every year. 

The government estimates that three million children in England are exposed to secondhand smoke in their family car, which puts them at risk of serious conditions including, respiratory infections and meningitis and triggering asthma. A survey by the British Lung Foundation found that 86% of children who are exposed to smoking in cars would like the smoker to stop; yet only 31% actually feel able to ask them to do so.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer said: “the passing of regulations to make smoking in cars carrying under 18s illegal is a significant victory for protecting children’s health from secondhand smoke. Smoking just a single cigarette in a car exposes children to high levels of air pollutants and cancer causing chemicals like arsenic, formaldehyde and tar.

“Children are least equipped to speak out to protest against secondhand smoke, so I welcome this legislation to end smoking in cars when they are present.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director for Health and Wellbeing for Public Health England added: “many parents aren’t aware that over 80% of secondhand smoke is invisible and odourless. Our campaign shows parents what is really there and brings to life that no matter how careful you are, children still breathe in harmful poisons. A completely smokefree home and car is a strong and positive step towards protecting the health of our children.”

 The government and public health professionals see this vote as a significant milestone in protecting children from the health risks of secondhand smoke. The law will come into force on 1 October 2015, and people failing to comply could face a £50 fixed penalty notice.

Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “after years of campaigning on this issue, we could not be more delighted by the government’s commitment to help stop smoking in cars with children present.  

“With so many children being exposed to secondhand smoke in the family car every week in the UK, we are certain that this measure will prove to be one of the most significant moments for public health since the smokefree legislation of 2007.”

The Smokefree Homes and Cars campaign features advertising on TV, radio and online from 9 February 2015. It highlights that many parents are often unaware of the damage smoking in the home and car causes to children’s health, and encourages them to quit.

Smokers can search ‘smokefree’ or visit for a range of free support and quitting advice, including the Smokefree app and Quit Kit.

Smoking drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2012. Health and Social Care Information Centre, 2013Royal College of Physicians (2010). Passive Smoking and Children. RCP, London

Smoke-free (Private Vehicles) Regulations Impact Assessment 2014 

Royal College of Physicians (2010). Passive Smoking and Children. RCP, London

BLF/ TNS survey, conducted 20-27 January 2011

Smoking has been prohibited by law in virtually all enclosed and substantially enclosed work and public places throughout the United Kingdom since July 2007. Smokefree legislation in England forms part of the Health Act 2006.