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Driving is the new smoking – the silent killer.

Transport emissions kill more people in the UK every year than die from obesity and alcoholism combined.

It is estimated that 40,000 people every year die as a result of poor air quality from transport, say the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Just stop and imagine that for one moment. The highest crowd at the Everton football stadium last season was 39,598. Imagine each and every person in that stadium, wiped out in some unthinkable tragedy. Gone.

There would, rightly, be a week of mourning declared and tributes paid to each and every lost soul.

What about those 40,000 lost to breathing problems caused by transport? Nothing.

Yet each person that dies is a waste. As a nation the cost to the UK of deaths from air pollution is estimated to be between £9-19bn.

Why then do we do so little to prevent those deaths and the associated costs?

Chimney

When, in the 1950’s poor air quality was a problem, as a result of coal fires, we introduced the Clean Air Act. Yet a laissez faire attitude exists regarding diesel vehicles and their impacts on our health. Curiously the car industry spends billions on autonomous cars and safe driving features on cars that account for 2000 deaths a year on our roads but the silent killer causes 40,000 deaths and little is spent on solving the problem. We need serious legislation, serious investment and a genuine political will to make change happen.

Forecasts suggest that air quality in some of our worst polluted cities will not be within the World Health Organisation limits for another ten years. You can do the maths regarding the number of people that will die from poor air quality by then.

Let’s be honest, the UK Government would miss the revenue from the vehicle exist duty if we all moved to low emission vehicles overnight. Sure they’d claw it back some other way but you take my point. What we need is for driving a diesel to be seen as antisocial as smoking near children.

There was a time when people smoked in offices, restaurants, pubs, cinemas, on planes and trains. We recognised the silent killer in our midst.

The time is right to tackle the second coming. Smoking is back, big style. It’s called driving.