Manawatu medics eye UK smoke signals

Manawatu health professionals have welcomed the launch of a consultation to bring England closer to banning smoking in cars carrying children, saying it will open a pathway for New Zealand to follow suit.

The consultation in England was launched this week and will run for six weeks to seek views on banning smoking in vehicles carrying children under 18 years old.

MidCentral District Health Board clinical director of children's health Jeff Brown said the regulation should be considered in New Zealand.

"Why should children be forced to travel in cars when there is smoking going on? They have no choice."

Brown said New Zealand had followed suit on other bans, such as smoking in bars, so there was every opportunity to follow on with this one as well.

"We all know it's hard to give up and we're fighting a big industry but people can give up, especially when they're doing it for their kids.

"Any education and encouragement to give up is good, if the message is clear and consistent."

Whakapai Hauora smoking cessation officer Monique McDonald agreed that making cars smokefree would benefit New Zealanders.

"It would be awesome if we had the same law. It would definitely have benefits [in New Zealand], especially with children," she said.

"One of the first questions we ask our clients is if their car is smokefree, because this is a good indication they're ready to quit. Making cars smokefree is instrumental in quitting."

This law change would help New Zealand reach the Government's goal of becoming smokefree by 2025, McDonald said. "All these little changes are instrumental, any changes we can make will help."

Britain was a good role model and New Zealand should be following suit, she said. "They're a lot bigger country, if they're able to do it then we should be able to as well.

"Babies are the leaders of tomorrow. We need to keep them uplifted and give them the best care."

McDonald said the behaviour itself was another factor to be considered for a possible ban. "Kids see parents smoking in the car and then it's passed on to them and down to the next generation."

Anti-tobacco group Tala Pasifika's general manager Edward Cowley also welcomed the British move. "Second-hand smoke is a real and substantial threat to child health," Cowley said.

"In 2012, almost a quarter of our year 10 students here in New Zealand reported being exposed to second-hand smoke in private vehicles, including the family car.

"But there is also a much higher proportion of Maori and Pacific students who are exposed, compared with students of other ethnicities."

Cowley said he hoped England's ministers were encouraged by the consultation to bring in the regulation.

Manawatu Standard