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Ontario rejects car-smoking ban Add to ...

The Ontario government has no plans to create legislation banning smoking in cars carrying children, despite a medical report that hazardous second-hand smoke is concentrated in the closed environment.

Nor does it plan to make protective helmets compulsory for children riding sleds or toboggans, despite recent calls for action in the wake of accidents causing serious head injuries and deaths.

"We're not going to go down that road at this point," said Jim Watson, Minister of Health Promotion, to a suggestion of a car-smoking ban at a Toronto news conference yesterday.

"We've just received the report from the Ontario Medical Association. We are concerned, but we also have a strong Smoke-Free Ontario Act in place already."

Mr. Watson said parents "should know the dangers of second-hand smoke trapped in cars. We're not about to legislate [a ban] but we don't rule out further measures in the future."

Mr. Watson said the emphasis had to be on getting a message to parents that it's unhealthy for their children to be riding in smoke-filled cars.

"We've got to better educate parents. Maybe they don't realize they're endangering their children."

A 2004 report by the OMA found that second-hand smoke is 23 times more toxic in a car than in a house.

The OMA issued a statement last week urging the provincial government to follow in the footsteps of Bangor, Me., which approved a law Jan. 8 prohibiting people from smoking in vehicles transporting children. Violators face fines up to $50 (U.S.).

The Minister applied similar reasoning to recent calls for mandatory head protection for kids on sleds and toboggans.

"A private member's bill has been debated and passed its second reading regarding [head protection in]inline skating and cycling. It doesn't include tobogganing."

Kitchener-Centre MPP John Milloy tabled the private member's motion last year, asking the government to make bike helmets mandatory for all ages.

He thinks head protection for sledders makes good sense, but stops short of suggesting a law to mandate it.

Mr. Watson said, "the government doesn't legislate common sense," adding that parents shoulder some responsibility for teaching their kids about safety.

"Injuries cost the health-care system a lot of money, but we cannot create a new law every time a report comes down. Let's get it right, then act."

Across Canada, about 2,000 young tobogganers are injured badly enough to require a hospital visit annually.

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