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Should smoking be banned in cars if a child is present?

A ban is being considered for smoking in private vehicles if a child is onboard. A six-week government consultation will look at the facts before draft regulations are drawn up, potentially leading to a change in the law.

The government hopes to protect children from the effects of exposure to secondhand smoke, which includes bronchitis, lung disorders and even sudden infant death syndrome. More than harmful 4,000 chemicals can be found in cigarette smoke.

Should smoking in a car be banned when a child is present?
Should smoking in a car be banned when a child is present?

Under the new legislation, which is part of the Children and Families Act 2014, it would be illegal to smoke in a private vehicle with anyone under the age of 18 present and illegal to prevent smoking with someone under the age of 18 present. 

The legislation reads: “Second-hand smoke is a real and substantial threat to child health.   

“The aims of these proposed regulations on smoking in private vehicles carrying children would be to: protect children from the health harms associated with exposure to second-hand smoke in private vehicles; encourage action by smokers to protect children from second-hand smoke; and in time, lead to a reduction in health conditions in children caused by exposure to second-hand smoke.” 

Regulations stipulate the vehicle must be ‘enclosed’ to apply. This means motorbikes and convertibles are exempt but cars with a panoramic roof aren’t regardless of whether said roof is open or closed. 

Mobile homes would see the law come into effect when on public roads. It would be legal for a driver under the age of 18 to smoke in a car if alone. 

Being caught breaking this particular law would lead to an on-the-spot fixed penalty of £50 and potentially lead to court action if the offender refuses to pay up. A fine of up to £2,500 is possible for failure to prevent smoking in a smokefree vehicle. 

Health campaigners have welcomed the move, which was voted in favour of by MPs earlier in the year. “Cars are small tin boxes where concentrations of tobacco smoke can reach dangerous levels very quickly,” smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) chief executive Deborah Arnott commented.

The consultation runs from July the 15th to August 27th. Your view can be hard via an online form available here. A similar consultation will take place in Wales shortly after. 

The Labour party proposed an amendment to ban smoking in a car when a child is present earlier in 2014. It is already illegal to smoke in a commercial vehicle.

A recent study found air pollution is actually more harmful than smoking, with pregnant women most likely to be affected.


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