Motorists and passengers in England and Wales are being warned they will soon be breaking the law if they smoke in a vehicle carrying a person under 18. From 1 October, they face fixed penalty fines of £50 – with drivers at risk of being fined twice if they have failed to stop a passenger smoking and are smoking themselves.
Smoking in a car with an open sunroof will still render adults liable to fines if there are under-18s aboard, though a 17-year-old who is smoking alone in a private vehicle will not be committing an offence.
Sitting in the open doorway of an enclosed vehicle is also covered by the legislation. The new rules do not cover e-cigarette use and will only apply to motorhomes, campervans and caravans when they are being used as vehicles, not when they are being used as living spaces.
The British Lung Foundation welcomed the ban as a victory, but smokers’ group Forest said it was unenforceable.
The regulations were passed in the Commons after 342 MPs voted in favour of legislation while just 74 voted against.
More than 430,000 children are exposed to second-hand smoke in cars each week, according to the British Lung Foundation.
Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison, said:
“Three million children are exposed to second hand smoke in cars, putting their health at risk.
“We know that many of them feel embarrassed or frightened to ask adults to stop smoking which is why the regulations are an important step in protecting children from the harms of secondhand smoke.”
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said:
“This is a tremendous victory.
“We urge the Government to show the same commitment to introduce standardised packaging for all tobacco products, in order to protect the 200,000 children taking up smoking every year in this country.
“We are certain that these measures together will prove to be two of the most significant milestones for public health since the smoke-free legislation of 2007.”
But Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, said the legislation was excessive.
“The overwhelming majority of smokers know it’s inconsiderate to smoke in a car with children and they don’t do it. They don’t need the state micro-managing their lives,”
“The police won’t be able to enforce the law on their own so the government will need a small army of snoopers to report people.”