30 April 2013

Scots Lib Dems lose plot on child car smoking ban

When a party loses two thirds of its Parliamentarians, more than half of its councillors and is struggling for a platform on the big issues of the day, one might think its spokespeople would use the limited opportunities that present themselves to promote some distinctive and well thought out proposals that might help reestablish the party.

Not so the Scottish Lib Dems who clearly think the 5% of liberal Scots who stuck by it in the last two years should be driven from the fold with an announcement by Health Spokesperson and nanny in chief, Jim Muir, to promote legislation to prosecute car drivers for smoking if they have children as passengers.

On first glance it may seem an attractive extension of tough anti-smoking laws to further dissuade the recalcitrant monority of smokers to give up and to protect children from second hand smoke.  Until you think about it that is.

There are a number of fundamental problems with this bizarre idea - notwithstanding its fundamental illiberalism and unacceptable increase in state intrusion into the private realm.  Firstly it is basically unenforcable - as anyone who has observed drivers chatting or texting on their mobile phones with impunity can testify. 

Secondly - even if it was enforceable (and it will be interesting to hear the police's view of the proposal) - it is aimed at the wrong target.  It isn't in cars that children of smokers are mainly exposed to second hand smoke - it is in their homes.  Car ownership in Scotland (like the rest of the UK) is very much more prevalent among higher earning households - the very groups where smoking rates are at their lowest.

According to Health Scotland (2007)  "In Scotland car ownership is highly related to social class and income. For example, 37% of households with an annual net income of under £10,000 own a
car, compared with 98% of those with an annual net household income of over £40,000; 40% of
households in the most deprived 20% of areas had access to a car compared with 86% in the least
deprived 20% of areas." 

Conversely, Public Health Information for Scotland (2008) report, "There is a strong gradient in smoking prevalence across deprivation deciles. In 2005/06, nearly 45% of Scottish adults smoked in the most deprived tenth of data-zones (as measured by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2006) compared with just 13% of adults living in the least deprived tenth.

It is clear this proposal is a solution looking for a problem. And sadly for the Scots Lib Dems wasting time and effort on useless political gimmicks like this isn't a sensible way to get back in the political game. 

1 comment:

  1. Good post. I can only assume that the very sad cull of Scottish Lib Dem politicians has left a rump of obsessed eccentrics. The problem is that this kind of nonsense policy will prevent any more Lib Dem winning elections in Scotland and moving the policy base back to reality...