Report proposes ban on smoking in cars
A new report released by the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) urges the government to ban smoking in cars and other public vehicles to limit children's exposure to passive smoke.
With funding from Cancer Research UK and drawing on studies from the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, the RCP found that passive smoking causes more than 20,000 cases of lower respiratory tract infection in children every year.
It also leads to approximately 120,000 incidences of middle ear disease, 22,000 new wheeze and asthma cases and 40 sudden infant deaths (cot deaths).
This is estimated to cost the NHS £23.3 million each year, with 300,000 GP consultations and 9,500 hospital admissions directly linked to the impact passive smoking has on the health of children.
Children at the greatest risk from the effects of passive smoking are those whose parents or carers smoke and who live in a home where smoking is allowed.
The level of passive smoke exposure for children with two smoking parents is nine times higher than for those whose parents are non-smokers.
And children who have a parent or siblings who smoke are 90 per cent more likely to take up the habit themselves.
Professor Terence Stephenson, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has recently led on the call to ban smoking in cars with children travelling in them.
"We should be making cars totally smoke-free if there are children travelling in them. Second-hand smoke has been found to be strongly linked to chest infections in children, asthma, ear problems and sudden infant death syndrome, or cot death. We strongly support the policy recommendations in this new report and repeat the call for new approaches to address this problem so that we protect the health of children and young people."
Other recommendations include increasing the real price of tobacco, harsher penalties to those who sell tobacco to children and promoting smoke-free homes in mass media campaigns.
Jean King, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, said: "This is a very important piece of work, shedding new light on just how dangerous second-hand smoke is and the impact it has on the health of children.
"The UK has recognised that workers should be protected from second-hand smoke, and we hope this report will raise awareness of just how damaging it is to smoke around children.
"Safeguarding the health of future generations is vital if we are to reduce the huge toll that society has to pay as a result of tobacco."