From 1 October 2015 it will be illegal to smoke in vehicles with someone under 18 present.
The primary responsibility for detecting and dealing with offences against this legislation is intended to lie with the police, as they have existing powers to stop moving vehicles and are able to enforce this as part of their routine road safety responsibilities, including proper use of child car seats, the wearing of seat belts and use of mobile phones. The national legal guidance produced by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health for regulators is that under the legislation, local authorities will also be able to authorise officers to:
- Serve fixed penalty notices
- Refer legal proceedings for all offences.
Local authorities will also be spreading public awareness about this new law as part of their public health role.
Why is this important?
Every time a child breathes in secondhand smoke, they breathe in thousands of chemicals, including about 70 known to cause cancer. This puts them at increased risk of conditions including meningitis, cancer, and respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
A recent survey by the British Lung Foundation found more than 430,000 children nationwide are still exposed to second-hand smoke in the family car each week. Some people wrongly believe opening a window is enough to protect their children, but research shows children still inhale high levels of poisons such as carbon monoxide in a confined space even with a window down.
It will be an offence:
- for a person of any age to smoke in a private vehicle carrying someone under 18
- for a driver (including a provisional driver) not to stop someone smoking in these circumstances
The fixed penalty notice fine for both offences is £50. Somebody who commits both offences could get two fines. Somebody who is 17 and smoking alone in a private vehicle won’t be committing an offence. The new regulations apply to all tobacco products – cigarettes, cigars, pipes, water pipes (shisha) but they do not apply to electronic cigarettes or any other forms of nicotine vaporisers.
What is an 'enclosed vehicle'?
The law covers any private vehicle enclosed wholly or partly by a roof. Convertible cars or coupes, with the roof completely down and stowed is not enclosed and so isn’t covered by the legislation. But a vehicle with a sunroof open is still enclosed and so is covered by the legislation. Sitting in the open doorway of an enclosed vehicle is covered by the legislation. The rules apply to motorhomes, campervans and caravans when they are being used as a vehicle but don’t apply when they are being used as accommodation.
The rules don’t apply to: boats, ships and aircraft as they have their own rules, while work vehicles and public transport are already covered by smokefree legislation. Officers will use their discretion to decide whether to issue a warning or a fixed penalty notice, or whether to refer an offence to court.
While the law is about protecting children from smoke, reducing the number of people smoking while driving could also have a positive road safety impact, with evidence people smoking in cars are more likely to have an accident because of temporary loss of control of the vehicle when lighting or extinguishing a cigarette.
For more details on the legislation visit the Gov.uk website.