CIEH launches enforcement guidance to prohibit smoking in cars with minors

The CIEH has launched today (Friday 18 September) a guidance document which will help officials in England enforce new legislation making it illegal for people to smoke in cars when children and young people are present.  

Child's pictures 

The guidance has been developed in partnership with the Department of Health and has been produced in preparation for 1 October when the Smoke-free (Private Vehicles) Regulations 2015 will come into force.

The new regulation will extend the current smokefree laws to make it an offence for someone to smoke in a private vehicle with someone under 18 present, as well as the driver failing to prevent other people smoking. If caught, both the driver and the smoker can be fined £50.

The guidance published by the CIEH aims to ensure a consistent approach across England in enforcing the new law and sets out in a succinct document the background to the legislation, roles and responsibilities for dealing with non-compliance, offences and defences and the enforcement actions which can be taken.

Primary responsibility for dealing with these new offences will lie with the police who have existing powers to stop moving vehicles and responsibilities for road safety including the use of seat belts and mobile phones.

Local authorities will also be able to appoint authorised officers and are being encouraged to work alongside the police to support the building of compliance through campaigns, such as raising awareness with local schools.

smoking in cars guidance - look insideSurveys have found that up to 430,000 children nationwide are exposed to secondhand smoke in the family car each week and they have little to no control over the vehicle or the conduct of the driver and other passengers.

The purpose of the new law is to prevent damage to children’s health caused by exposure to secondhand smoke in vehicles, which is particularly hazardous as children have a smaller lung capacity and body weight. This means they are more likely than adults to be adversely affected by the chemicals and airborne particulates in tobacco smoke in such confined spaces. 

Ian Gray, Principal Policy Officer for the CIEH and author of the guidance, said that there has been growing public support to extend the smokefree requirements to include a prohibition on smoking in private cars when children are present, with support amongst the general public approaching 80%. 

“We know that the vast majority of people support this law which will reinforce the need to protect our children from harmful tobacco smoke. Opening the car window or using the fan has been proven to be ineffective," said Ian Gray. "The only way to protect young children from being exposed to secondhand smoke is not to smoke in the vehicle and now it will be illegal to do so when children are present.

“There is no intention to turn smokers into criminals and this guidance will help ensure a consistent enforcement approach across England so that children travelling in private vehicles are properly protected from secondhand smoke, as well as ensuring drivers and other adult passengers are treated fairly.”

Link to the guidance document.

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