PARENTS and child carers across Wales are being urged to keep their cars smoke free as the first phase of a major Welsh Government campaign begins.

The Fresh Start Wales campaign, launched today, aims to protect children from the health risks associated with secondhand smoke in a confined space, with cars the main target.

And First M i n i s t e r Carwyn Jones warned that a ban on smoking in cars carrying children will be considered later in his government’s five-year term, if smoking levels do not reduce as a result of the campaign.

That is a stance backed by the British Lung Foundation (BLF) Wales, which believes the option of a ban must remain.

“Smoking in cars harms children,”

said BLF Wales chairman Dr PatrickFlood-Page, a respiratory consultant at Newport’s St Woolos Hospital.

“Each year 300,000 children in the UK go to their GP with illnesses related to passive smoking.

We should be protecting our children from harm. We shouldn’t be forcing them to smoke.”

Chris Mulholland, head of BLF Wales, welcomed the campaign.

“There is a mountain of evidence to show smoking in cars harms children. Passive smoking by children causes respiratory illness and poor lung function, as well as many other health problems,” he said.

“Smoky cars are worse than smoky bars. The level of dangerous particles caused by a single smoker in a car can be higher than in smoke-filled pubs.Worse still, children’s lungs are more vulnerable than adults’.

“We hope the campaign will help reduce children’s exposure to smoke in cars. But it’s vital that the option of a ban remains, as the first minister indicated it would.” Wales’ chief medical officer, DrTonyJewell, said children are particularly at risk from second-hand smoke, “especially in vehicles where a confined space means there is no respite from the harm of the toxic chemicals in cigarettes”.

Survey tells of avoidable diseases

THE Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children survey suggests around 20 per cent of 11- 16-year-old schoolchildren in Wales report being exposed to smoke the last time they travelled in a car.

A report published in March 2010 for the Royal College of Physicians showed that passive smoking in the UK can lead to a host of chronic diseases which are entirely avoidable.

Evidence-based research and analysis found that children subjected to passive smoking face an increased risk of lower respiratory tract infection, asthma, middle ear disease and bacterial meningitis.

The first phase of the Fresh Start Wales campaign will feature advertising on local radio stations, billboards, bus-backs and bus shelters, and through a dedicated website,