DUNCAN BARKES Puffed up with indignation at demonisation of smokers

Any measure that protects the health of children deserves our support.

However, is it a step too far when the state starts dictating what people can and cannot do within the confines of their private property?

The House of Lords has approved plans to ban smoking in private cars when children are present.

A private members’ bill put forward by Lord Ribeiro would see those caught puffing at the wheel with children in the back of the car facing a £60 fine or attendance of a smoke-awareness course.

Following the rubber-stamping by peers, the bill now needs the support of MPs for it to become law.

Many MPs have concerns about this move and instead favour education as a means of getting parents to change their habits.

While I believe the majority of parents would never smoke in their cars if their children were present, there are still the tiny minority who carry on regardless.

It can be argued that if they have not got the intelligence to realise this is wrong in the first place, no amount of education will get them to change their ways.

David Cameron has stated that introducing a law to tackle this would have serious implications for personal freedoms and I think he is right.

If you support the banning of smoking in cars carrying children then surely you are only a small step away from implementing a total smoking ban in the home if you have children – the arguments of children inhaling second-hand smoke in an enclosed space would still apply.

I am torn on this. As a father I instinctively understand the wish to protect the health of children, but I am very uncomfortable with the notion of such state interference.

There are already numerous examples of couples who have been told they cannot foster children because they smoke.

I can see the health concerns of the authorities in situations like this, but find it hard to accept that a child should remain in care and miss out on a loving family simply because the potential parent figures enjoy a cigarette.

Given that cigarettes are perfectly legal products, this constant demonising of smokers is illogical.

If health campaigners, charities and peers want to push such measures then perhaps they should consider the absurdity of doing it in a country where it is legal to consume tobacco.

In which case perhaps the real debate should be about whether or not the time has come to ban cigarettes entirely.