A leading medical body has urged the government to ban smoking in all vehicles after a new study found that thousands of children were suffering from respiratory conditions every year due to passive smoking.
The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) compiled the report, which revealed at least 22,000 new cases of asthma and wheezing in children were caused by second-hand smoke.
More than 20,000 chest infections, 120,000 cases of middle ear disease and 200 youngsters suffering from meningitis were also believed to be linked to passive smoking.
The research also showed that 40 babies died from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDs) every year caused by passive smoking. This accounted for one in five of all SIDs deaths.
Professor John Britton, Chairman of the RCP's tobacco advisory group, said legislation to ban smoking in the home would be unenforceable so instead views of "what is acceptable" had to be changed to protect the two million children who live in homes which allow smoking.
But a total ban on smoking in cars and vans would be easier to police than the current situation which expects enforcement officers to differentiate between business and private vehicles, he said.
"We would recommend a ban on smoking in all vehicles," he said.
Prof Britton said even drivers who never had child passengers should get out of their cars before lighting up for reasons of road safety.
Current smoke-free legislation is due for review this year and Prof Britton said it was an opportunity to "close remaining gaps".
"I strongly disapprove of smoking for all the medical and anti-social reasons but, legislating a ban in cars is taking the nanny state a step too far. Surely a law difficult to enforce too! Strong advice - yes" - Name and address supplied