A new law is set to be introduced that will make it illegal to smoke in a vehicle carrying a person under the age of 18 from 1st October, with a fixed penalty charge of £50 for anyone breaking the law.
The Department of Health has recently started to step up publicity to increase awareness of the law, in order to avoid a surge in fines when it is introduced.
Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, said:
“Children breathe faster than adults so they are much more exposed to the dangers of second-hand smoke. Their airways, lungs and immune systems are still developing so are much more at risk from harm.
“We want children to grow up free from harm and we need parents to understand why smoking in vehicles is so dangerous. 80% of smoke is invisible so even if you think you are being careful you cannot see where the smoke is going.”
Government surveys suggest that around 3 million children are exposed to smoke in vehicles.
Exposure to toxins could result in diseases such as bronchitis, pneumonia, meningitis and cancer.
Fixed penalty notices are already in place for breaches of bans on smoking in public places, and it’s already illegal to smoke on work vehicles and in public transport. However, the new health measures will remove uncertainty, and will represent a big extension in power for both police and staff working for local authorities.
Private cars – with the exception of convertibles and coupes with the roofs down and stowed, will now have to be smoke free if they carry anyone else but the driver. Smoking in a car with an open sunroof will still render adults liable to fines if under-18s are in the car, though if the driver is 17 and alone in a private vehicle, they will not be fined.
Sitting in the open doorway of an enclosed vehicle will also be included, though e-cigarettes will only be included for motorhomes, campervans and caravans when they’re being used as vehicles, not as living spaces.