One of my earliest memories was of my first flight in 1965 on a plane bound for the Isle of Man. On reaching cruising altitude the captain came over the intercom and announced something along the lines of:
At the age of six, whilst no expert in avionics or inflammable materials, I was pretty convinced that this was not a good mix. I look back almost fifty years and muse "What were we thinking"?
Recently MPs voted in favour of an amendment to the Children and Families Bill empowering ministers to ban smoking in cars carrying children; but this does not mean it will happen. It is curious that it has taken so long to get to this stage, in that it has been illegal to smoke in a vehicle used for work for over six years now. Furthermore, with 86% of children and 80% of adults supporting the new ban, one has to ask "Why the delay?" Enter the politicians!
The motion to amend the children and families bill was carried by 269 votes, making one wonder what is going on in the feeble minds of the 107 MP's that opposed the ban. Politicians confused about liberty, or smokers throwing their lighters out of the pram?
Actually this debate sums up all that I loathe about politics. Rather than contributing to our society by swiftly acting to ban this obscenely selfish act, politicians will want to debate it endlessly. Wallowing in public attention, strutting and preening themselves as they put forward their banal perspectives about this or that. To them it's just a game. A huge and futile popularity show, where they are the overpaid prima donna actors and we are the bored senseless beleaguered audience.
The latest NHS research shows that around 430,000 children are exposed to second hand smoke in cars every week. The risks are increased in the small confines of a car and can create pollution levels 35 times greater than those deemed safe by the World Health Organisation. Cigarette smoke contains radioactive polonium -201 along with over 70 more cancer causing agents and it is especially toxic to children due to their smaller lungs, faster breathing and less developed immune systems.
A review in 2007 by the British Medical Association's Board of Science concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke for children and adverse effects can be found at low levels of exposure. It is simply indefensible that many children enter this dangerously toxic environment each day in the family car and have no choice in the matter to protect their own health. Ethically how could anyone defend this?
Simon Clark, director of smokers' lobby group Forest, did have a go and said smoking in cars with children was "inconsiderate", but there was "a line the state shouldn't cross when it comes to dictating how people behave in private places." Perhaps Mr Clark forgot about the line of 40 tiny coffins each year from cot death victims attributed to second hand smoking.
Furthermore, smoking whilst pregnant should be illegal. In terms of damage to the foetus it constitutes grievous bodily harm with unequivocal evidence behind this. The right of the unborn (and born) child to breathe clean air is a fundamental and most basic right that any decent society would afford them. Subjecting children (yours, mine or theirs) to tobacco smoke is a serious issue of child protection rather than one of adult choice.
I hear the mantra of thin end of the wedge: What next banning smoking in the home? How will you police it? Actually people should not be smoking in the same room as children and logic dictates that the home comes next. The point being that society should not tolerate adults poisoning children and saying as long as it is on my property and my child then that's ok. Just like when they feed their children junk food and allow them to sit in front of the TV or video games all day until the child becomes seriously obese (as tens of thousands are now in the UK) they say things like "I have no idea why he is obese, I think it must be genetic".
My message to the politicians as a father and founder of an organisation dedicated to healthy lifestyle choices for all, is to put your personal agendas to one side and stop hiding behind the facade of personal choice and liberty and act now to protect those least able to protect themselves.
Alan Jackson is the lead practitioner and researcher for Weight Management Centre in London and Discovery Learning an educational organisation dedicated to health, fitness and personal wellness for fitness instructors personal trainers and health practitioners.