TV ad shows danger of ‘invisible secondhand smoke’
Chief Medical Officer Prof Dame Sally Davies: “We have a duty to make sure everyone knows the risks”
31 March 2012 Last updated at 00:07
Making houses and cars smokefree is the only way to protect children from second-hand smoke, according to a new government campaign in England.
The TV and radio adverts show how pervasive invisible second-hand smoke can be.
Breathing it in can damage lungs and cause cancers, research has shown.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is calling for smoking in cars where children are present to be made illegal.
Second-hand smoke is the smoke breathed in from other people’s cigarettes.
The new TV campaign is based on research which shows that most secondhand smoke is in the form of invisible, odourless gases.
It shows a young baby being surrounded by cigarette smoke as her mother smokes by the nearby kitchen door.
Another advert depicts children in a car breathing in second-hand smoke from their father’s cigarette. He is smoking in the driver’s seat with the window down.
A study from the National Research Council in 1986 found that 85% of second-hand smoke cannot be seen.
This smoke can put other people and children at increased risk of lung disease, meningitis and cot death.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said that people do not realise the serious effect of second-hand smoke.
“This campaign will raise awareness of this danger and encourage people to take action to protect others from second-hand smoke.
He also said the government had plans to do more.
“Next week we will end tobacco displays in large shops. We will also be consulting on plain packaging this spring.”
Research carried out by the Royal College of Physicians found that around two million children currently live in a household where they are exposed to cigarette smoke, and many more are exposed outside the home.
The damage caused by exposure to the harmful toxins in cigarette smoke results in 9,500 hospital visits in the UK each year costing the NHS more than £23m annually, the report said.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said it wanted to see smoking in cars made illegal, when children are present.
Professor Terence Stephenson, President of the RCPCH, said: “The state does have a duty to protect children’s health and intervene where necessary.
“Other progressive legislation such as seatbelts in cars and banning drink-driving, once met with scepticism, have proven to make a significant difference.
“I have no doubt an outright ban on smoking in cars would have the same positive results.”
Doctors in Scotland have also urged the government in Edinburgh to ban smoking in cars, while the Welsh government said last year it would consider legislation if attitudes did not change.
Prof Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, said second-hand smoke could cause a range of health problems.
“Smoking damages our lungs, causes cancers and is now the biggest risk for cot death. Parents who smoke need to think about the effect it has on their family.
“Giving up smoking or making sure you have a completely smokefree home and car is the only way to protect your family.”
Support and advice is available on the NHS if people want to give up smoking, she said.
A survey of 1,000 young people in England by the Department of Health, found that children overwhelmingly want smokefree lives.
Eighty-two per cent of children wished their parents would stop smoking in front of them at home and 78% wanted their parents to stop smoking in front of them in the car.
BBQs and bonfires
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: “There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke and children are at risk of a range of diseases such as asthma, ear infections, and potentially fatal meningitis as a result of breathing in second-hand smoke in the home or car.”
But Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, said the government had gone too far.
“It’s only a matter of time before loving parents who smoke in or around their homes are accused of child abuse and risk having their children taken into care.
“Tobacco is a legal product. If the government doesn’t want children exposed to even a whiff of smoke they will have to amend the smoking ban to allow designated smoking rooms in pubs and clubs. That is the only sensible solution.
“Meanwhile, are they going to ban barbecues and bonfires?”