NI 'backs ban on smoking in cars'
Nine out of 10 people in Northern Ireland support banning smoking in cars with children, campaigners said.
Up to 13,500 children are inhaling second-hand smoke, the Action Cancer charity estimated.
Since 2007 tobacco use has been prohibited in public buildings and workplaces.
Driving and smoking lobby groups said cars are a private space and favour education rather than legislation to change behaviour.
However, in a survey of 100 homes across the country, Action Cancer found that 88 backed a ban on lighting up in cars which carried children.
Geraldine Kerr, director of professional services at Action Cancer, said: "Children are one of the most vulnerable groups affected by passive smoking. The effect of second-hand smoke on a child's metabolism can be attributed to doubling the risk of sudden infant death, wheezing and bacterial meningitis."
She added that smoking a cigarette in a confined environment such as a car will emit 50 times more fine particles than those emitted by the car's exhaust in the time it takes to smoke the cigarette.
Ms Kerr said: "Ahead of the Assembly election in May we are calling on all parties to support a commitment to introduce a ban on smoking in cars with children.
"We hope that a ban will send a clear message to parents and other adults that will influence their behaviour in front of children, both inside and outside the vehicle."
Some hoteliers have complained about the impact of the smoking ban on their nightlife businesses. In March this year doctors urged that smoking should be banned in all cars as well as in public places where young people congregate.