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Doctors want smoking ban inside all cars

Doctors have called for a ban on smoking in all vehicles after a new report revealed passive smoking causes thousands of new cases of asthma and wheezing in children every year.

The report from a prestigious college suggested a substantial number of chest infections, inner-ear infections and even meningitis in youngsters were linked to the effects of secondhand smoke both inside and outside the home.

Furthermore, a number of babies die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDs) every year caused by passive smoking -- one in five of all SIDs deaths.

Professor John Britton, chairman of the Britain's Royal College of Physicians (RCP) tobacco advisory group, said legislation to ban smoking in the home would be unenforceable, so instead views of "what is acceptable" had to be changed to protect children who live in homes which allow smoking.

But a total ban on smoking in cars and vans would be easier to police than the current situation, which expects enforcement officers to differentiate between business and private vehicles, he said.

"We would recommend a ban on smoking in all vehicles," he said.

He added that current smoke-free legislation in the UK was up for review, giving opportunities to clamp down on smoking in public places frequented by children,.

The report, funded by Cancer Research UK and carried out by the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, said passive smoking results in more than 300,000 GP consultations for children, some 9,500 hospital admissions and costs the British health service about £23m (f25m) each year.

Prof Britton said: "Many parents believe that smoking in only one room or when the children have gone to bed will somehow protect the children from exposure. It doesn't."

Simon Clark, director of the smokers' lobby group Forest, said: "If you ban smoking in cars, which is a private space, it's a small step to banning smoking in the home. Both measures are unacceptable and unenforceable."