A report by the New Economics Foundation called for tobacco-style health warnings on all SUVs and their advertising, and launched the campaign on the cover of last week’s New Statesman magazine.
Report author and NEF policy director Andrew Simms said: ‘SUVs are dangerous, fabulously polluting and part of a wider transport problem that is, according to the World Health Organisation, set to be the world’s third most common cause of death and disability by 2020, ahead of TB, HIV and war.
"We need labelling to encourage people not to drive these four-wheel drive behemoths in the same way we encourage people not to smoke. If we can’t, we may need to find a very large ashtray for our planet’s future."
Simms also claimed the Health Secretary Dr John Reid’s recent comments on passive smoking that ‘people do not have the right to damage the health of others, or to impose an intolerable degree of nuisance on others’ also applied to 4x4s.
A spokesman for Nissan, which will soon have a range of six 4x4s in the UK, says: "Our best selling 4x4, the X-trail, is the only model that sells in any quantity in urban areas and the majority of those sold are diesel and as economical and no more polluting than many saloons. With regards to pedestrian safety the most recent Euro NCAP results have quoted that protection given to pedestrians by the Nissan X-trail was above average.
Our larger 4WDs are very popular in rural areas for their go-anywhere ability and their seven-seat capability. These vehicles are all diesel-fuelled, consume less fuel than many MPVs and take up less road space."