MPs condemn government indifference to childminder smoking



Wednesday 13 February 2002

EMBARGO: 00.01 THURSDAY 14TH FEBRUARY

The health of young children is being put at serious risk by government failure to protect them from childminders’ second hand tobacco smoke.  A Select Committee Report [1] on “the work of OFSTED” today roundly criticised the current inadequate National Standards that allow childminders to smoke in front of children in their care, while smoking is banned in all other childcare settings.

Karen Richardson, a Researcher for ASH responded to the report saying:

“The government has previously ignored evidence from health experts and child welfare organisations which has clearly shown how harmful passive smoking is to children’s health. It is beyond our comprehension why the government introduced National Standards to regulate smoking in nurseries, playgroups, out of school clubs and crèches, but not for childminders. Now OFSTED can make a recommendation to ministers to rectify that mistake.”

Although the Select Committee Report is disparaging of the current inadequate National Standards, it is calling on OFSTED to publish a study on the exposure of children and childminders to tobacco smoke by December 2003.

However, the health impacts of second hand smoking on young children are already well documented.  The Royal College of Physicians, estimates that 17,000 children under the age of five are admitted to hospital every year in the UK with illnesses resulting from passive smoking [2].  A report by the World Health Organisation concluded that passive smoking is a cause of bronchitis, pneumonia, coughing and wheezing, asthma attacks, middle ear infection, cot death, and possibly cardiovascular and neurobiological impairment in children. [3] Richardson continued:

“We know that tobacco smoke is extremely harmful and toxic to children, there is no justification for professional childminders smoking near young children in their care.  We don’t need a 2 year OFSTED study to tell us that,” Richardson added.   “It was a mistake in the first place to let childminders smoke near children, the government should make sure that no one entrusted with the care of children causes harm to their health and set a very bad example.”

The National Childminding Association (NCMA), an organisation that promotes quality registered childminding, has been a long-term supporter of banning childminders from smoking in front of children in their care.

“This is one of those areas where regulation would clear up a mess, create certainty and reassurance for all involved, raise professional standards – with the support of the profession, protect health, contribute to the government’s long-term public health goals, and would be without cost” said Gill Haynes, Chief Executive of NCMA

More information on the NCMA and the National Standards can be found at NCMA.org.uk

Notes to Editors

  1. House of Commons Education and Skills Committee, The Work of Ofsted, First Report of Session 2001-2
  2. Smoking and the Young.  Royal College of Physicians, 1992.
  3. International Consultation on Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) and Child Health. Consultation Report,  WHO, 1999 (pdf)
  4. ASH Briefing on the impacts of passive smoking on children (pdf)
  5. ASH Submission to the government’s consultation process on new National Standards for Regulations of Day Care and Childminding in England (pdf)
  6. ASH Letter to David Blunkett MP, former Secretary of State for Education and Employment (pdf).