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The law-making process in England and Wales
The law-making process in England and Wales

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5.2 Pressure groups

The usual route for the electorate to engage in politics is through the voting system by electing their chosen MP. However, many individuals form organisations known collectively as pressure groups. These groups lobby MPs on various social issues and call for the introduction of new laws. An example is the debate dealing with the ban on smoking in private vehicles while children are present.

Box 1 Debate dealing with the ban on smoking in private vehicles while children are present

The pressure group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has campaigned against smoking in public places and also believes smoking in a private vehicle where children are present should be banned. ASH has engaged the assistance of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health. The APPG on Smoking and Health is made up of MPs and peers (lords) and was founded in 1976. Its main role is to monitor the impact tobacco products have on health and put forward measures which will reduce any health risks/hazards.

All-party groups such as the APPG on Smoking and Health are run by members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords but do not have an official status within Parliament. Rather, their role is to liaise with individuals and organisations outside Parliament, such as the pressure group ASH. In this instance, the APPG on Smoking and Health has undertaken an inquiry and produced a report on the risks associated with smoking tobacco products in private vehicles where children are present, and the effect of this upon their health. This report clearly outlines the danger of smoking in a confined space and the direct effect this has on children.

Activity 4 Parliament on health: the dangers of smoking


Read the extracts below which have been taken from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health (2011) Inquiry, which deals with smoking in private vehicles where children are present.

About the Inquiry

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health launched this Inquiry in response to the Smoking in Private Vehicles Bill 2010–11, introduced to parliament by Alex Cunningham MP under the Ten Minute Rule. The aim of the bill is to ban smoking in private vehicles where there are children aged under 18 present.

The bill had its first reading in the House of Commons on 22nd June 2011 and was supported by 78 votes to 66 against. The APPG was keen that the best available evidence should inform the debate stimulated by the bill and in particular the second reading, scheduled for 25th November. The purpose of this Inquiry was therefore to examine the most up-to-date evidence on the harm caused by smoking in cars and the regulatory issues raised by the proposed legislation.

(APPG, 2011, p. 4)

APPG Inquiry Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations


  1. In March this year the coalition government launched Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Tobacco Control Plan for England. The plan identifies the serious harm of secondhand smoke and acknowledges that ‘people are today most likely to be exposed to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke in their own homes and private motor vehicles’. However, the plan stopped short of proposing new legislation to deal with this issue, opting instead for a voluntary approach to promoting behaviour change. In this spirit, a marketing campaign is planned for spring 2012 to remind smokers of the harms of secondhand smoke and to encourage smokers to make their homes and cars smokefree.
  2. The government’s strategy was published at a time when the public debate on smoking in cars had already broached the options of legislative change. In March 2010 the Royal College of Physicians called for the banning of smoking in all vehicles in its report Passive Smoking and Children. Later that year the British Lung Foundation launched its Children’s Charter campaign with a focus on protecting children from secondhand smoke. The campaign includes a petition calling for smoking in cars to stop where children under the age of 18 are present.
  3. This year the Royal College for Paediatrics and Child Health called for all cars carrying children to be smoke free while the British Medical Association voted to support a ban on smoking in private vehicles regardless of who is present as they considered this to be safest for children, easiest to enforce, and the most effective option.
  4. This is an issue of great public interest with a growing evidence base. The Ten Minute Rule Bill introduced by Alex Cunningham MP in June this year has provided a clear focus for debate on this issue. The APPG is eager to ensure that this debate is informed by the best available evidence and addresses the practical and ethical issues raised by the legislation. These are the concerns of the Inquiry.
  5. The APPG notes that the Welsh Government has followed a similar route to the coalition government in Westminster by choosing to pursue a mass media campaign focused on stimulating changes in smokers’ behaviour in cars with children. However, the Welsh Government has stated its intention to legislate if the campaign is ineffective. The Northern Ireland Executive has gone further and committed to a consultation which is due to be completed by spring 2012.
(APPG, 2011, p. 8)

The harm caused by smoking in cars

Findings and Conclusions

6. Smoking in cars causes several distinct harms. Firstly, there is the harm to the smoker from inhaling tobacco smoke. Secondly, there is the harm to other adults and children in the vehicle from inhaling secondhand smoke. Thirdly, there is the potential harm to children and young people from witnessing smoking as normal adult behaviour, as this increases the risk of smoking uptake. Finally, there is the potential harm to the driver, passengers and other road users from the driver’s temporary loss of full control of the vehicle.


15. Although it is difficult to identify the specific health impacts of secondhand smoke within cars, because people exposed within cars also tend to be exposed within the home, it is logically evident that the risk of harm is likely to be high, given the severity of the hazard and the scale of the exposure.

16. Children and young people are also affected by witnessing smoking as a normal adult behaviour. Children who live in households where adults smoke are much more likely to become smokers themselves than children growing up in non-smoking households. For every 10 children from non-smoking households who start smoking, 27 children from households where both parents smoke will start smoking themselves. Overall, if there is any smoker in a household, the likelihood that children within the household will start smoking is almost doubled. This modelling effect is responsible for about 20,000 young people becoming smokers by the age of 16 every year.

17. Smoking also affects driving safety. The Highway Code identifies smoking as one of several distractions that compromise safe driving. Unlike the use of mobile phones, smoking by drivers remains permitted. Yet the ‘inattentional blindness’ caused by using a mobile phone is also experienced when carrying out smoking-related tasks such as finding and preparing cigarettes, lighting up, and extinguishing the cigarette. International evidence demonstrates that the distraction created by smoking increases the risk of having a motor vehicle accident.

18. Although the evidence for these many harms is clear, care is needed in developing policy responses in order to avoid unexpected adverse outcomes. For example, critics of the ban on smoking in public places argued that it would result in an increase in children’s exposure to secondhand smoke in the home. In fact, this outcome did not occur: reductions in exposure to secondhand smoke have been observed in both public and private places since the enactment of smokefree legislation.

(APPG, 2011, pp. 8–10)

Now answer the following questions:

Question (a)

  • (a) Do you think it is right to ban smoking in a private space, such as a vehicle?
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This is a personal response and you may have said either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The argument in favour of the ban relates to the dangers tobacco smoke poses for children in a confined space, such as a private vehicle. The alternative view is that smoking tobacco is not an illegal activity: why should the state control what you do in private?

Question (b)

  • (b)What do you think are the main arguments for not introducing legislation banning smoking in a private vehicle while a child is present?
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Again, there will be a mixture of responses but some of the arguments against this ban will relate to privacy and the right to smoke in your own personal space. A car, for instance, is a private space: should the legislature tell people how they should behave in private? This is the type of question that is raised when dealing with legislation that will tell people what they are not allowed to do in private.

Question (c)

  • (c) If you are a smoker, would you stop smoking in a private vehicle while a child is present?
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This will be a personal response and it depends upon the individual and how they perceive the risks and feel about the proposed legislation.

Below is an extract taken from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health (2011) Inquiry: the inquiry dealt with the issue of second-hand smoke (SHS) in cars. They found there was a significant increase in SHS when a single cigarette was smoked inside a car. If the proposal became law it would be an offence to smoke in a private vehicle where a child is present but then it is up to the state to police (enforce) this law.

2.0 It is well established that secondhand smoke (SHS) is a significant health hazard, and this has been the starting point for the creation of laws to reduce/eliminate SHS in public places, including the United Kingdom’s own comprehensive smoke-free laws. But there are other important venues where SHS can reach levels that are much higher than in pubs, where smoking is already banned. Most notably, this includes smoking in cars. A study published in 2009 found that just a single cigarette smoked in the small interior space of a car produced levels of secondhand smoke over 11 times greater than that of the average pub where smoking was allowed. Standard strategies for reducing SHS in a car (air conditioning, opening driver’s window and positioning the cigarette at that opening when not puffing) still left the levels of secondhand smoke at hazardous and unhealthy levels.

2.1 This and other similar studies have led eight of the ten provinces in Canada and one of the three territories to pass laws banning smoking in cars with children. The Canadian experience with such laws has been extremely positive: results from the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Survey in Canada has shown that over 80% of adult smokers support banning smoking in cars with children and similar levels of support have been found in the UK.

2.2 The conclusions are that:

  1. it is established that SHS is dangerous to humans, particularly to children;
  2. there are very high levels of SHS in cars, even when the typical strategies to reduce smoke are employed;
  3. most Canadian provinces have passed a ban on smoking in cars containing children, and Canadian smokers have been very supportive, with support continuing to increase;
  4. support among adult smokers in the UK is continuing to climb; it is now over 80%.
(Fong and Hitchman cited in APPG, 2011, p. 16)