BLACKBURN with Darwen’s top health expert has called for a ban on smoking in cars when children are present.

Discussions have begun in Parliament to decide whether it should be made illegal to smoke in a private vehicle that is carrying children.

And Dominic Harrison, director of public health at Blackburn with Darwen Care Trust Plus, believes the move is justified.

He said: “The effects of second hand smoke have always been a real concern and major health risk, especially in children.

“Smoking around children and young people in enclosed spaces exposes their developing lungs to toxins and can trigger asthma attacks, bronchitis, middle ear infection and hearing impairment, as well as cot death.”

England’s smoke free law banned smoking in enclosed public places such as offices, pubs and restaurants.

The 2007 legislation was introduced to help reduce the risk of serious health problems for non-smokers.

There are more than 4,000 different chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are toxic and damaging to health.

Experts say being exposed to second hand smoke can increase a non-smoker's risk of getting lung cancer by 24 per cent and heart disease by 25 per cent.

Doctors believe passive smoking triggers 22,000 cases of asthma and wheezing in children every year.

The Royal College of Physicians said passive smoking resulted in 300,000 extra child visits to GPs in the UK, with 9,500 being admitted to hospital for problems such as asthma and bacterial meningitis.

Anti-smoking body Smoke-free North West believes the region is responsible for at least 30,000 of these smoking-related illnesses and 1,000 hospital admissions.