A LEADING East Lancashire health expert has said there should be a political debate over banning smoking in cars.

Doctors have said that all smoking in vehicles should be made illegal in the UK to protect people from second-hand smoke.

Research has shown that the levels of toxins in a car could be up to 23 times higher than in a smoky bar, leading the British Medical Association to call for an extension of the current ban on smoking in public buildings.

Blackburn with Darwen’s director of public health, Dominic Harrison, said a partial ban would be more appropriate.

He said: “The evidence around smoking with children in the car, even with the window open, is absolutely overwhelming as that is far too close to be smoking to a child.

“With children or passengers I think the issue is the same as smoking in an enclosed public space.

“I think we should test this with political debate and I would be quite interested to see what the public mood would be.

“I would suggest immediately no smoking in cars with a passenger and certainly not with children and I would make it a civil offence, similar to parking on a double yellow line, not a criminal one initially.”

Blackburn MP and former Justice Secretary Jack Straw said he believed the proposal was “over the top”, as police had more important things to do, and that he was “profoundly uneasy” about making smoking in the private space of an individual’s car into a criminal offence.

However, the BMA doctors’ union said an outright ban would be the best way of protecting children as well as non-smoking adults.

A report by MPs and peers said non-legislative options should also be considered.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health said calling for an immediate ban could even be “counter-productive”.