Smoking ban: Another success for public health or merely spreading the stigma of an ‘unsociable’ habit?

This week saw the latest smoking ban come into force in England and Wales. This now means that people will no longer be able to smoke in cars with children present, regardless of open windows or sun roofs – however convertibles with the roofs down are exempt.

Scotland and Northern Ireland meanwhile have yet to push anything through, with the former bringing the debate to Scottish Parliament next year and Northern Ireland stating they will see how the new laws workout here before making a decision.

Inevitably the new law will lead to an even greater stigma, and one has to wonder if part of the reasoning is yet another attempt to herd the masses into conformity. A prime example of this being the new legislation on supermarket alcohol sale’s, brought in last year shortly before the world cup. From April 2014 supermarkets were no longer able to sell alcohol below cost price.

However, opinion polls would suggest that a good sized number of the British public are in agreement, with a 2014 YouGov poll stating that 77% believed pushing through the ban was the appropriate action.

Many have questioned how the police can feasibly enforce the new regulations; with the police themselves stating they intend to take a softer approach for the first three months, informing as opposed to reprimanding. There is nonetheless a possibility of a £50 fine which officers can enforce.

Social implications aside, there has been a wealth of research (from profit driven and non-profit alike) that all concludes the same thing – passive smoking damages, particularly children.

Just as an asthma suffer or elderly person will suffer more from the myriad of chemicals and carcinogens, as will a smaller set of lungs and the rapidly developing immune system of a child.

A popular study from 2009 concludes that even with windows open whilst driving, hand out, a car will still have a similar amount of pollutant ‘particle matter’ to a small pub or bar.

From 2013 statistics we can see that locally, both in the city and county, there are a slightly above average number of smokers for England, which begs the question will the new regulations be harder to enforce here than elsewhere?

Of course, all statistics can be ‘made to fit’, even large scale. However, we’ve had decades of progression with science and understanding, time and time again leading, or indeed bringing us to, the conclusion that smoking isn’t good. And in many cases, it’s downright bad.