Smoking in cars with children: the new law

Smoking in cars with children: the new law

Smoking in cars with children: the new law

From 1st October 2015, several changes to the law come into force. Here is what you need to know:

  • It will be an offence for a person of any age to smoke in a private vehicle that is carrying someone who is under 18.
  • It will be an offence for a driver (including a provisional licence holder) not to stop someone smoking in these circumstances.
  • The rules do not apply to e-cigarettes.
  • The fixed penalty notice fine for each offence is £50. Somebody who commits both offences could be fined twice.
  • Private vehicles must be carrying more than one person to be smoke-free, so somebody who is 17 and smoking alone in a private vehicle won’t be committing an offence.
  • Enforcement officers (usually the police) will use their discretion to decide whether to issue a warning or a fixed penalty notice, or whether to refer an offence to court.
  • It will also be illegal for retailers to sell e-cigarettes or e-liquids to someone under 18, or for adults to buy (or try to buy) tobacco products or e-cigarettes for someone under 18 to smoke in private vehicles that are carrying someone under 18.


Why is the law changing?

Child smokingThe law is changing to protect children and young people from harm. Every time a child breathes in second-hand smoke, they breathe in thousands of chemicals.

This puts them at risk of serious conditions, such as meningitis and cancer, and respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. It can also make asthma worse.

Second-hand smoke is dangerous for anyone, but children are especially vulnerable, because they breathe more rapidly and have less-developed airways, lungs and immune systems.

More than 80 per cent of cigarette smoke is invisible, and opening windows does not remove its harmful effects.

What is covered?

Woman smoking with childThe legislation covers “any private vehicle that is enclosed even partially by a roof, even if the windows or sunroof are open, the air conditioning is on, or if the smoker sits in the open doorway of the vehicle.

This means any private vehicle that is enclosed wholly or partly by a roof. Arguably, a convertible car, or coupe, with the roof completely down and stowed is not enclosed and so isn’t covered by the legislation.

But a vehicle with a sunroof open is still enclosed and so is covered by the legislation. As is sitting in the open doorway of an enclosed vehicle is covered by the legislation.

The rules apply to motorhomes, campervans and caravans when they are being used as a vehicle, but do not apply when they are being used as living accommodation.

The rules don’t apply to boats, ships and aircraft, as they have their own rules work vehicles and public transport, as they are already covered by smoke-free legislation.

Alaric Walmsley is the Managing Partner of Linskills.

Linskills are a law firm that help people with motoring offences throughout England and Wales. For a free consultation call 0800 0963 238 or send us a message.