Smokers in England will soon be banned from smoking in cars with children inside, if MPs vote in favour of a ban as expected on Monday.
Ministers have been offered a free vote on the measure, with the cabinet split on how to respond and Labour backing the move en masse.
Luciana Berger, the shadow health minister, said: “This is a matter of child protection, not adult choice. Children are especially vulnerable to passive smoking, with nearly half a million exposed to potentially toxic levels of second-hand smoke in family cars every week.
“Just as seatbelt laws and the smoking ban have helped change behaviour in the past, outlawing smoking in cars with children would send a powerful signal and improve public health.”
Government whips are not telling their MPs how to vote on the legislation, which will be debated as part of the children and families bill, with the cabinet divided on whether to back it. The proposal was initially made in the Lords by Lord Howe, the health minister, and was backed by Labour peers as well.
Some, such as Jeremy Hunt, health secretary, will vote for the ban, believing smoking in confined spaces is too damaging for children’s health to justify allowing it. Last week, more than 700 doctors and other health experts signed a letter urging MPs to back the ban.
But others, such as Chris Grayling, the justice minister, oppose the move, calling it unenforceable.
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