The smoking ban in vehicles has started – why aren’t pregnant women covered?

A law banning smoking in vehicles carrying children has come into force today in England and Wales. It’s great news that the law will protect children, we just wish the ban was extended to cover pregnant women.

Woman smoking in car.

By Kate Pinney, Tommy’s midwife.

Today’s new legislation feels like a missed opportunity. Whilst it prohibits smoking in vehicles where anyone under the age of 18 is present, pregnant women aren’t covered. 

Why is second-hand smoke so dangerous?

New data released earlier this year by Edinburgh University showed the positive impact of the public smoking ban with an 8% drop in both stillbirth and neonatal death rates between 2007 and 2011. That’s an estimated 1500 lives which have been saved.It’s well established that smoking during pregnancy is the leading cause of stillbirth, but the equally harmful effects of second-hand smoke are not always fully appreciated.

We wrongly assume that it’s only when we’re in close proximity to someone smoking that we’re exposed to toxic chemicals, when actually 80% of second-hand smoke is invisible and doesn’t smell. In reality, smoke can stay in the air inside a car for up to two and a half hours, even with a window open. 

How second-hand smoke affects your baby

Toxins from second-hand smoke can damage the placenta and increase the risk of serious problems like placental abruption. Nicotine and carbon monoxide also reduce the amount of oxygen and nutrients the baby receives, impairing their growth and development. By depriving the baby of oxygen, the baby’s heart is also forced to work harder.  

If your partner smokes

If your partner is a smoker, ask them not to smoke in the car, or in the home. Even with the car window open, second-hand smoke can be damaging to you and your unborn baby.

The facts

  • Smoke can stay in the air for up to two and a half hours even with a window open
  • Second-hand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, some of which are known to cause cancer
  • Smoking in a car creates a higher concentration of toxins than in a bar - some research has put it at 11 times higher

Read our tips on how to best avoid second-hand smoke in public and private spaces.

Best of all, quit!

Let’s also not forget the importance of smoking cessation services in helping people to actually quit this habit.  It’s estimated that 12% of women continue to smoke in pregnancy and Tommy’s is here with advice and support. 

Read more about smoking and pregnancy

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