New smoking law comes into force amidst enforcement uncertainty

12.00 | 1 October 2015 | | 6 comments

A new law introduced on 1 October 2015 makes it illegal to smoke in a vehicle with anyone under the age of 18 years present, as the government looks to “protect children and young people from the dangers of secondhand smoke”.

The law applies to all drivers in England and Wales, including those with a provisional driving licence, and both driver and smoker can be fined £50 for committing the offence. 

However, the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) says it will be taking an educational approach to offending motorists, rather than enforcing the fine.

The government website states that “secondhand smoke is dangerous for anyone, but children are especially vulnerable, because they breathe more rapidly and have less developed airways, lungs and immune systems. Over 80% of cigarette smoke is invisible and opening windows does not remove its harmful effect”.

The ban has been welcomed by many, including GEM, but the RAC has raised concerns about its enforcement.

The RAC points to data from the RAC Opinion Panel which suggests that 92% of motorists do not have confidence that the new ban will be effectively enforced, while only half of those polled were aware it comes into effect today.

Simon Williams, RAC spokesperson, said: “While the motoring public know this new law is coming, our data shows that a significant proportion are not aware just how soon it takes effect.

“It is worrying that nine in 10 motorists have concerns about the extent to which the new law is likely to be enforced. This is perhaps well-founded as traffic police officer numbers have fallen by nearly a quarter (23%) between 2010 and 2014 across forces in England and Wales, so it is hard to see how people flouting the law are going to be caught.”

A spokesperson for the NPCC said: “As the existing smokefree law extends to vehicles, police forces will be taking an educational, advisory and non-confrontational approach when enforcing the new legislation.

“This would see people being given warnings rather than being issued with fines, which would give time for public awareness of the offences to build.

“This is based on experience of implementing the current smokefree legislation and the Department of Health’s proposal that this approach should be adopted for a minimum of three months to help build a high level of compliance.”



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    The law only applies when children are sitting in the car. In which case one is “surrounded by others” who are both in close proximity and have developing lungs and bodies. Your libertarian opposition to such a progressive and child oriented law is misplaced and misinformed. Honor’s comparison is perfectly reasonable. Your opposition is not!

    Rod King, 20’s Plenty for Us
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    There is such a big difference between breaking the law by smoking in pubs, surrounded by others including staff and landlords, and smoking in one’s own vehicle that Honor’s comparison is invalid.

    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    The first duty of the police is to protect life. The NPCC approach to this new law seems eminently sensible and constructive. I think we heard similar predictions about whether a smoking ban would work prior to the law that stopped smoking in pubs but it is now accepted and it works without oppressive enforcement.

    Honor Byford, Chair Road Safety GB
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I agree with this legislation. Although I can not see many prosecutions progressing. Does anyone know how they would deal with he following scenario as it would clearly be an offence.

    A driver aged 18 is smoking while driving with a 17 year old passenger who is smoking. While it is an offence for someone under 16 to purchase cigarettes it is legal for them to smoke. So is the driver prosecuted. What right would the police have to ask the age of a passenger in the car? After all the law is the law.

    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Not really a road safety issue I would have thought and not something that should be top of the list for the police to be on the look out for. Does it apply to e-cigarettes I wonder? If a driver is smoking a cigarette, with or without passengers, at least they can’t be using their ‘phone at the same time, although I’m sure there are those who would try.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Another ‘law’. Can we have one that makes things that dangle from mirrors illegal? Or sat-nav screens? For those that use them, surely an audio only is enough?

    Derek Reynolds, Salop.
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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