Cars and Children’s Health

Offence

As of the 1st of October 2015 it is illegal to smoke in a private vehicle that is enclosed and carrying someone under the age of 18. 

So it is an offence:

-For a person of any age to smoke in a private vehicle that is carrying someone who is under 18.

-For a driver (including a provisional driver) not to stop someone smoking in these circumstances.

Penalties

A fixed penalty notice of a £50 fine.

Note: If you are the driver and the smoker you could be fined twice.

Criteria

Private vehicles must be carrying more than one person to be smoke free.  

According to government guidelines, the police will use their discretion to decide whether to issue a warning, fine or refer the offence to court.

What are the exceptions? These rules do not apply to:

-E-cigarettes.

-Convertible cars that have the roof completely down.

-An individual who is 17 and smoking alone in a private vehicle will not be committing an offence. 

Why has the law changed?

The main driving force behind this change in the law is primarily to protect children from the dangers of second-hand smoke. Reports suggest that tobacco smoke contains more than 7000 chemical, hundreds of which are toxic and a number that are cancer-causing. Even with the windows open research found a significant rise in the level of harmful chemicals well above the safe recommended limit. The British Lung Foundation have been campaigning for 5 years to persuade the government that a ban on smoking in cars when an under 18 is present is ‘vital in protecting the health of our children’. Huge pressure was put on local MPs by the Breathe Easy support groups to action this change.

How effective is the new law likely to be?

Surely this new offence can only be seen as a good thing? If it is against the law to smoke in a vehicle with under an under 18 then drivers or passengers are less likely to do it. A spokesperson from the National Police Chiefs’ Council said that ‘forces will be following guidance from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health’. This encompasses taking a non-confrontational approach and dealing with the offence by way of education and offering advice. But the next question is whether the police, who have increasingly limited resources, will be able to enforce this new law effectively? Or will a number of officers resort to ‘turning a blind eye’?

Our chairman, Andrew Parker, wonders as to whether PC Stubbs will really appear out of the haze to deal with this minor matter, given the cutbacks in police funding. Mobile phone use by motorists is an example of law and enforcement. How often do we now see offenders on their mobile phones while driving or being in control of the vehicle?

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