News that smoking in cars with someone under 18 present will be illegal from October 1st this year will be met with delight by those who, in their daily lives, seek to combat the effects of second hand smoke inhalation (SHS).

It was once commonplace to see a car window wound down with smoke swirling from it but with Parliament stepping in, those found flouting the ban will be handed a £50 fixed penalty notice. Drivers without children present will not face the fine.

When you hear that 3 million children are exposed to second hand smoke in cars, this ruling is seen as long overdue. It should, many say, have been brought in when the ban on smoking in public buildings was introduced back in 2007.

Since the ban, one study has found that between 1996 and 2007, SHS exposure among children declined by nearly 70%. The reductions were greatest in the period immediately before the introduction of smoke-free legislation, coinciding with national mass media campaigns around the dangers of SHS.

Minister of Public Health, Jane Ellison, says: “It puts children and young adults’ health at risk and many of them feel too embarrassed or frightened to ask adults to stop smoking – this is why the regulations are an important step in protecting children from the harms of second hand smoke.”

Public Health England is set to launch a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers that second hand smoke in homes and cars can cause to children’s health. There will also be a Smokefree Homes and Cars campaign advertised on TV, radio and online from now until October, highlighting that many parents are often unaware of the damage smoking in the home and car causes to children’s health, and encouraging them to quit.

As founder of The Athena Programme, I’m delighted with the news: “Although this is a public health issue, it’s equally a safeguarding issue in that we must protect our children from the harmful effects of smoking.

“I remember conducting home visits when you could barely see the baby in the room for the cloud of smoke or taking cigarettes into custody for a juvenile who had just been convicted for the first time.”

Children need to grow up in a safe environment, whether that’s while in a building or a vehicle and this ruling is a really positive step closer in the fight for a voice for those most vulnerable.

These experiences need to be a thing of the past and it’s how we live and learn and stay committed to improving the future for our young that matters in 2015.

Smoking causes more preventable deaths than anything else – nearly 80,000 in England. There’s also an impact on smokers’ families: each year, UK hospitals see around 9,500 admissions of children with illnesses caused by secondhand smoke.

This ban can’t come quick enough for the families of smokers and the health and care professionals who witness preventable deaths and illnesses from SHS every day.

Web links:

Government ruling – www.gov.uk/government/news/smoking-in-cars-is-now-illegal

PHE campaign – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/secondhand-smoke-campaign-launch-coincides-with-vote-ending-smoking-in-cars-with-childre

The Athena Programmehttp://www.theathenaprogramme.co.uk/

Smoking banhttp://www.politics.co.uk/reference/smoking-ban

Reducing smoking – https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/reducing-smoking