THE latest bad news for smokers is that the health and interior ministries are studying ways of preventing drivers from smoking while at the wheel, as this is considered a cause of distraction, one of the major causes of traffic accidents.
Minister of the Interior José Antonio Alonso, whose department is responsible for road safety, said he had already had talks with Elena Salgado, his counterpart in the health and consumer affairs ministry, which has been campaigning to reduce tobacco addiction. Alonso pointed out that the traffic department had recently waged a campaign to increase control over the use of mobile phones by drivers.
The question of smoking at the wheel “has been discussed on many occasions,” he said, adding that “the introduction of recommendations on the matter will be studied in the near future.” Alonso said that it had been proved that “distraction while driving, caused by the use of a mobile, smoking or another series of factors, is one of the chief causes of accidents, and it is particularly important in urban traffic.” He pointed out that reducing road accidents is one of the priorities of the government, and his ministry in particular.
The road safety campaigns have had positive effects, Alonso said, pointing out that they had put emphasis on the obligation to use safety belts, not drive after drinking, reduce speeding and prevent any distractions in general. He stressed that the use of mobiles and smoking were important factors in distraction, and had a lot to do with many traffic accidents.
Elena Salgado, for her part, added that “smoking while driving also gives rise to other types of problems, such as environmental ones, as a large number of fires have been caused by a lighted cigarette stub being tossed out of a car window.” She added that her ministry would continue to fight against tobacco addiction in various fields.
Alonso and Salgado also signed a protocol governing their collaboration in the National Drugs Plan in jails.
It is designed to improve the fight against drug addiction, improve prevention, treatment and recovery of prisoners.
The protocol will be in force until the end of the year, and can be renewed.
It will consist mainly of improving the training of prison staff, compiling a survey of patterns of drug use and risky behaviour among prisoners and improving the information on drug dependency available in jails. Salgado said that her department would also work closely with regional governments “as it is necessary to make every effort to co-ordinate the fight against drugs and make it more efficient.” Alonso said that it was a priority for the government to “re-insert and re-educate prisoners and so it is essential for those who are dependent on drugs to have treatment programmes and specialised attention.”