The British Medical Association is suggesting that the United Kingdom ban smoking in cars to help meet the BMA’s goal of a tobacco-free U.K. by 2035.

Such a ban would reduce smokers’ and their passengers’ -- particularly children’s -- exposure to carcinogenic cigarette smoke, BMA’s Board of Science said in a research paper released last week. It also makes the case that smoking can be as distracting to a driver as eating or reading a map and is associated with higher incidence of car accidents.

The board said the paper is a response to a debate at the BMA’s 2011 Annual Representative Meeting, “where our members overwhelmingly supported the call for the UK Governments to extend smoke-free legislation to private motor vehicles.” The paper says the restriction could be crafted in several ways: It could apply only when there’s a passenger in the car or only when a child is in the car, for example. But an across-the-board ban would be easier to enforce and simpler to follow, the paper said.

Some studies, including one published in 2009 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, have found that there’s a far higher concentration of carcinogens in cars in which people smoke than in bars where smoking is allowed.

In the United States, a few states and other jurisdictions ban smoking in cars when children are passengers.

British reaction to the paper has been mixed.