Drivers who smoke while carrying passengers under the age of 18 will face a £50 financial penalty from October of this year as a result of legislation passed last week. MPs in London and Welsh ministers have decided that smoking whilst drivers with under 18s are present is to be outlawed.
Dangers of smoke
The legislation is the result of pressure from campaigners who say that second hand smoke is more dangerous to children than to adults due to their smaller lungs. Furthermore passive smoking in a confined space, for example, a car is thought to increase the health risks further.
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said:
“Having campaigned on this issue for many years, we’re absolutely delighted that MPs have overwhelmingly backed the ban on smoking in cars carrying children.
“MPs from across the parties have come together to support this ground-breaking measure.”
The British Lung Foundation says that roughly 185,000 children between the ages of 11 and 15 are exposed to smoke in their families’ cars on most days of a typical week. Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer, said:
“The passing of regulations to make smoking in cars carrying under-18s illegal is a significant victory for protecting children’s health from second-hand smoke.
“Smoking just a single cigarette in a car exposes children to high levels of air pollutants and cancer-causing chemicals like arsenic, formaldehyde and tar.
“Children are least equipped to speak out to protest against secondhand smoke, so I welcome this legislation to end smoking in cars when they are present.”
In England, the law was originally added by the Labour party to the Children and Families Bill at the start of 2014. Politicians in Cardiff had at the same time been running an educational campaign to educate drivers as to the potential dangers of second hand smoke for children. However it was felt that this was not sufficiently effective in reducing the number of motorists who smoked while transporting their children and that increased measures were necessary.
Smokers’ rights group Forest, however, said the ban was a step too far. Director Simon Clark commented:
“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 government will need a small army of snoopers to report people.”
The ban will come into effect on 1 October 2015. Drivers who fall foul of the new legislation will face an on the spot fine of £50.