The BMA has called for smoking in cars to be banned across the UK to protect people from second-hand smoke.
Doctors have urged the four UK governments to extend current smoke-free legislation to include a ban on smoking in private vehicles, prompting the Department of Health to swiftly dismiss the call.
The call comes after research compiled by the BMA showed strong evidence that smoking in vehicles exposes non-smokers to very high levels of second-hand smoke, with children and the elderly particularly at risk.
It found the restrictive internal environment in motor vehicles exposes drivers and passengers to 11 times more toxins than a smoky bar.
The call coincides with the second reading of a Private Members’ Bill calling for a ban on smoking in private vehicles when children are present, due to debated on Friday 25 November.
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s director of professional activities, said: ‘We are calling on UK governments to take the bold and courageous step of banning smoking in private vehicles.’
‘The evidence for extending the smoke-free legislation is compelling. The current UK Government prefers voluntary measures or “nudging” to bring about public health change but this stance has been shown to fail time and time again.’
A DH spokesperson said that the Government thought legislation was not the most effective way to encourage people to change their behaviour.
She said: ‘In March, we published our plans to help drive down smoking rates and reduce the harms from tobacco over the next five years.’
‘As part of this commitment, we will be launching a national marketing campaign next year to remind smokers of the risks of exposing children and adults to second hand smoke and we will be supporting local areas to work in partnership to encourage smokers to change their behaviour.’