Breathe Easily

October 21, 2015

Thanks to a change in law, the younger members of our population should now be able to breathe much more easily. From the start of October, it became illegal to smoke in a vehicle carrying anyone under the age of 18. An on the spot £50 fine for the smoker and/or driver will be issued in the event a young passenger is exposed to second hand smoke in this way.

So what’s the big deal with smoking in cars? According to Dr Nigel Carter OBE, the Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, by smoking just one cigarette in a car with the windows closed, those in the vehicle are exposed to a concentration of second hand smoke 11 times higher than in the average bar permitting smoking. This means that the level of toxins omitted from the smoke are much higher than we would be exposed to if we were in a bar or other area where smoking was allowed.

Smoking (including exposure to second hand smoke) has many negative effects which are widely publicised. For children, smoking can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay or tooth loss. This could occur during crucial times of tooth development, meaning that the child is not able to develop their full set of teeth correctly. In addition, smoking and passive smoking can lead to serious and life threatening conditions such as mouth cancer. Around seven thousand people die each year in the UK alone due to mouth cancer.

There is a large amount of public support for the recent law change: in a recent YouGov poll over two thirds of participants indicated their agreement this ban, and of the smokers who responded to the survey, 63% also voted in favour. This shows a marked change in attitudes towards smoking: it is becoming increasingly less socially acceptable to smoke, and to expose others to one’s smoke in a second hand manner. Attitudes have changed significantly since the ban on smoking in enclosed places came into force in 2007.

As well as the immediate impact of decreased exposure to second hand smoke, the new ban also has longer term benefits for our younger population. By teaching children that smoking is less common and less a part of routine every day life, they will be discouraged from taking the habit up themselves in later life. This will help the UK work towards a smoke free society in years to come.

1st October marked an important occasion for the UK and for smokers. More importantly it was a key milestone that should lead to improved oral health outcomes for our children and young people and should mark an investment for their futures.

For further information, please visit the British Dental Health Foundation website:

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