21 Nov 2018

Smoking in cars: 'Just the worst thing you can do with children'

2:57 pm on 21 November 2018

Health campaigners are excited about a possible ban on smoking in cars with children.

A health promoter said 100,000 children were exposed to second-hand smoke in cars each week.

A health promoter said 100,000 children were exposed to second-hand smoke in cars each week. Photo: 123RF

Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa yesterday said she hoped to take the matter to Cabinet before Christmas and introduce legislation early next year.

She said she was still consulting all the government parties but had so far received positive responses.

A spokesperson for the Green Party said it supported such a ban and NZ First leader Winston Peters had previously spoke in favour of such a move.

A long-time crusader for tobacco control Dame Tariana Turia said she respected the government for taking the step.

"When I talk to families, their children often tell me that in actual fact that's how they all started smoking - being in a car where the adults were smoking continuously."

She said she'd tried to promote such a law when she was in government but was not able to convince the National Party.

"I never, ever felt there was real commitment to [reducing smoking], because they tended to operate on the premise that adults were in charge of their own lives and we should not be telling them what to do."

National MP Michael Woodhouse said his party had yet to come to a position, but had questions about whether such a ban would be effective and how it would be enforced.

"I think most members of the public would rather that the police were focusing on other aspects of crime."

Dr Chris Jackson, from the Cancer Society, said the move would help shift attitudes without a need for strict enforcement.

"We're not allowed to smoke in restaurants, we're not allowed to smoke in bars, and I'm sure if kids could speak up, they would say we don't want you to be smoking around us either."

Plunket chief nurse Jane O'Malley said the government's decision was great.

"Smoking in the confines of a car is just the worst thing you can do with children."

However she hoped police took a light-handed approach.

"One of the things we know is that if you are in a lower-income household you actually are more likely to smoke, so there is a double-edged sword in this in that you're punishing people who don't have a lot of money."

Instead of being fined, offenders should be given help to break their addiction, Dr O'Malley said.