'It's not PC gone mad': Duncan Garner leads call for ban on smoking in cars

The AM Show's Duncan Garner has once again thrown his support behind calls to ban adults from smoking in cars with children. 

The AM Show has started a campaign to ban smoking in cars with children in New Zealand – legislation which is already in place in many countries around the world.

Smoking is banned in the workplace, in bars, in planes, on trains, but not in private cars on public roads. Garner says it's time for this to change in New Zealand, because kids "don't have a voice" when it comes to the issue.

"Do what you like when you're in your own vehicle, but what about when kids are on board?" Garner asked on The AM Show. "Children are knowingly breathing in toxic smoke - 4000 chemicals in those things."

Garner first raised the issue on The AM Show in August where he called on the Government to ban smoking in cars with kids, saying, "If it was common sense then people wouldn't smoke in cars with kids, but that's what they do."

Otago University Professor Richard Edwards supports the idea of a ban, telling The AM Show New Zealand should follow in the footsteps of Australia, Canada and the UK, among others, where smoking in cars with kids is banned.

"A car is an enclosed space, but even if the windows are open, you get extremely high levels of poor air quality indicators - much higher than you would get in smoky restaurants or bars," said Prof Edwards.

"This is widely supported, even among smokers - about 95 percent of smokers in a study we did recently support legislation on banning smoking in cars with children."

In Canada, smoking is prohibited if there are children less than 16 years of age in the vehicle. Similar rules apply across Australian states, as well as the UK where legislation in England and Wales makes it illegal to smoke in a vehicle carrying someone who is under 18.

"It's been happening all around the world and it does seem like a very obvious thing to do to protect children from a health hazard," Prof Edwards added. "It's very well proven and kids have no choice over it."

The New Zealand Government has set a goal of New Zealand becoming smoke-free by 2025, but some 600,000 Kiwis are still smoking, according to Smoke Free New Zealand. And there is no legislation to stop people from smoking in cars with kids.

In 2010, the Māori Affairs Select Committee began an inquiry into the tobacco industry and the effects of tobacco use on Māori. The inquiry found that while overall smoking rates were reducing, the rates among Māori and Pacific peoples were increasing.

The inquiry outlined measures "to remove tobacco from our country's future in order to preserve Māori culture for younger generations". It was because of this inquiry the Smokefree Aotearoa New Zealand 2025 goal was set.

"I thought when the Maori Affairs Select Committee recommended that this was looked at in 2010 that a ban [on smoking in cars with kids] would follow, particularly when a lot of other countries like the UK and Canada and Australia have done it," Prof Edwards told The AM Show.

The Smokefree 2025 goal is "wonderful," he said, but since the new Government came in, "not much has happened to show that we're moving towards that".

"There's been a lot of talk about making New Zealand a great place for children, which of course it is in many ways, but there are still ways in which children's health is affected in ways that we can do something about very easily," Prof Edwards added.

Garner criticized the Government for making time to pass legislation on matters such as jumping political parties, but not making the effort to introduce a ban on smoking in cars with kids - which has wide public support.

The previous Government rejected a recommendation to ban smoking cars, which Garner called "weak and pathetic". "It's easy, it's enforceable, just like seatbelts and cellphones - it's about priorities," he said. "It's not PC gone mad."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says a consensus is needed before a ban on smoking in cars with kids can be introduced in New Zealand. She told The AM Show the Government's priority is to end smoking in New Zealand completely. 

"If you smoke in your car, then you probably smoke at home, and you may have even smoked while pregnant, and all of that has an impact on kids," said Ms Ardern. "The best thing we can try and do is have families stop smoking altogether."

She said the Government is also looking at how to categorize vaping. A New Zealand Initiative report argued that turning to less harmful method of smoking could be a good way to stub out the habit and a better than going cold turkey.