CIEH welcomes new smoke-free legislation around cars carrying children

Publication Date: 18th December 2014

Subject: Public health

The CIEH welcomes the Government’s response to the public consultation on regulations to require private vehicles in England to be smoke-free when children are present and the announcement that regulations are being laid before Parliament.

Read our response to the Government consultation.

The CIEH supports the proposals for a prohibition on smoking in private vehicles when children are being conveyed as a necessary measure to further protect them against the health effects of adults smoking. The existing smoke-free legislation already protects children when they are travelling in all forms of public transport and it is entirely sensible that they should also be protected when travelling in private vehicles, whether they are being driven by their parents and family members or anyone else.

Ian Gray, CIEH Principal Policy Officer, said: “Polls have shown that the vast majority of people already understand that the confined enclosed space of a motor vehicle is one of the worst places to smoke and the last place that you would want your children to be exposed to other people’s smoking. The regulations will not come into force until 1 October 2015 and the CIEH will be supporting publicity campaigns. It is anticipated that these will increase voluntary compliance and therefore the need for enforcement action will be limited.”

The CIEH recognises that dealing with offences under this legislation will not be without problems and we support the government’s intention that enforcement will mainly be the responsibility of local police who will be able to use their existing powers to stop vehicles and require drivers and passengers to identify themselves. However, we anticipate that local authorities will also want to authorize some of their own officers so that they can take part in campaigns to promote compliance and deal with offences when information and advice fail to have effect.

Graham Jukes, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said: “We are delighted that the Government is to press ahead with regulations to prohibit smoking in cars when children are present. As with the smokefree public places law, this is a popular measure that will largely be self-enforcing. However, secondhand smoke is just as harmful to adults as children and it makes it more difficult to enforce if it only applies to some cars not all. Seatbelt laws don’t just apply to children, why should smokefree car laws?”

The CIEH has previously stated that smoking should be considered to be a ‘driver distraction’ as is eating or drinking at the wheel or using a mobile phone, and that an additional measure for Government to consider would be a total prohibition on drivers smoking in any motor vehicle on the grounds that smoking constitutes a hazard to safe driving. The Regulations include a provision for the Secretary of State to review the operation and effect of these Regulations and publish a report within the period of five years beginning with when the Regulations come into force.

Notes to editors:

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The British Lung Foundation estimates that 430,000 children are exposed to secondhand smoke in their family car every week. Legislation is likely to significantly reduce the levels of exposure; when seatbelt laws were introduced in 1983 compliance rates jumped from 25% to over 90%.

There is already widespread support for smokefree cars when children are present, both among the public and parliamentarians. A poll conducted in March by YouGov for ASH found that 77% of adults, including 64% of smokers, agreed that smoking should be prohibited in cars that are carrying children younger than 18 years of age.

In Parliament, the primary legislation was approved on a free vote by a majority of 376 to 107, a majority of 269 – a larger majority than that for the 2007 smokefree public places law. The regulations have the support of the Prime Minister.

About the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health:

  • The CIEH is the professional voice for environmental health representing over 10,000 members working in the public, private and non-profit sectors. It ensures the highest standards of professional competence in its members, in the belief that through environmental health action people's health can be improved
  • Environmental health has an important and unique contribution to make to improving public health and reducing health inequalities. The CIEH is working to ensure that both in support of government policy and in campaigning for necessary additional measures
  • The CIEH is a leading provider of regulated qualifications and operates in over 50 countries
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