A Breath of Fresh Air

October 21st, 2015

We’ve all pulled up at the traffic lights next to vehicles where the passengers are shrouded in a mist of cigarette smoke. We’ve been passengers in cars where there is the recognisable odour of stale smoke lingering on the upholstery. But this October has brought about a change in the law. From the start of the month it became illegal to smoke in a vehicle that is carrying anyone under the age of 18. The British Dental Health Foundation, the UK’s leading dental health charity, are hugely buoyed by this development, and anticipate a positive impact of the oral health of the nation’s children.

When thinking about the younger members of our population, passive smoking has always been a cause for concern. Orally speaking, second hand smoke not only increases the risk of children facing problems with tooth decay, but also causes more generalised problems with their overall tooth development. Dr Nigel Carter OBE, who is the Chief Executive of the British Dental health Foundation, has recently explained this in more detail: “Within a confined environment, such as a car, children are exposed to higher concentration of harmful chemicals if someone is smoking”. Dr Carter goes on to explain that just one cigarette smoked in a closed car, with the windows closed, can produce as much as 11 times more second hand smoke than would be experienced in a more open environment such as a bar.

Dr Carter described smoking as having numerous ill-effects on our oral health, with second hand smoking having the potential to cause gum disease and tooth loss, as well as more serious conditions such as mouth cancer. Almost 7 thousand people lose their lives to mouth cancer each year in the UK. For children, it is vitally important that their teeth and gums are given the best chance of developing healthily right from the start. Our teeth will last us a lifetime if we look after them correctly.

Following on from the smoking ban in enclosed spaces in 2007, there is increasing public support for moves such as this new law. Over three quarters of people surveyed agreed that banning smoking in cars carrying those under 18 was the right course of action. Over half of the smokers who took part in this poll also agreed with this.

It is also thought that, as well as saving lives and improving oral health for children, this latest ban will improve our behavioural perspective in relation to smoking. By preventing people from smoking in vehicles carrying children, this stops those children from viewing smoking and smoking related habits as ‘normal’ behaviour. This should hopefully reduce the number of children who grow up expecting to smoke as part of adult everyday life.

With a £50 on the spot fine for anyone caught smoking in a vehicle carrying an under 18 year old (and the driver), this new law marks another step along the path to becoming a smoke-free society. There is still a long way to go but smoking as a contributory factor to oral health problems is seeing a gradual reduction. This is excellent news for our young population as they develop their teeth and gums and learn good habits to last a lifetime.

For further information, please visit the British Dental Health Foundation website: https://www.dentalhealth.org/news/details/886

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