A bill to ban smoking in cars carrying children has passed the first stage in the Scottish Parliament.
MSPs voted unanimously in favour of the legislation in general, which aims to protect youngsters from the effects of second-hand smoke.
If passed the new law could mean fines of up to £100 for adults who smoke in a car while a child is also inside the vehicle.
The member’s bill was introduced by Jim Hume, the Liberal Democrat South Scotland MSP and health spokesman.
The Smoking Prohibition (Children in Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Bill had previously been backed in principle by the Scottish Government, Scottish Labour and health charities as well as Holyrood’s health committee, which will now further scrutinise the bill before it comes back to the Holyrood chamber for the final go ahead.
Jim Hume said: “This debate is another major step forwards in our efforts to protect children from the damaging effects of second hand smoke.
“With an estimated 60,000 children in Scotland exposed to the harmful effects of second hand smoke during car journeys every week, the time for action is now.”
Researchers have warned that levels of harmful fine particulate matter during car journeys where someone smokes are over ten times higher compared to smoke-free car journeys.
Mr Hume’s bill has the backing of health charities like the British Lung Foundation and medical groups such as the British Medical Association.
Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s senior public affairs manager, said: “Stubbing out before getting in a car with children should become as normal as fastening seatbelts – it’s simply not acceptable to expose children to cancer-causing second-hand smoke. There’s strong public and political support for Jim Hume’s Bill to ban smoking in cars where children are passengers. And Cancer Research UK and the wider public health community fully back this Bill, as part of a comprehensive tobacco control programme.”
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of health charity ASH Scotland, said: “This is well-evidenced, popular legislation that will help to protect children’s health.
“Similar measures are already in place in England and Wales, and there seems to be wide cross-party support for the proposals here in Scotland. I hope to see this Bill fully supported by the Scottish Parliament, and passed and implemented as soon as possible.”
Irene Johnstone, head of British Lung Foundation Scotland, added: “Second-hand smoke is a serious health hazard, particularly for children. Their developing lungs and faster breathing make them more vulnerable to the toxins in tobacco smoke than adults. This legislation will give Scotland’s children the same protection as young people in England and Wales. It can’t come in soon enough.”