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Jeanette Miller

Anti-smoking laws: How motorists are affected

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Legislation in England and Wales bans drivers or their passengers from smoking in the presence of minors.

 Cigarette in hand

It is no surprise that the majority of motorists – smokers and non-smokers alike – have welcomed new laws to ban smoking in the car with children.

According to anti-smoking charity Ash, there are around 10 million smokers in the UK, and while the new legislation – which came into effect in England and Wales on 1 October 2015 – is bound to reap indisputable benefits for the nation’s youth, it could result in millions of motorists being unfairly penalised due to lack of knowledge.

So if you are yet to kick the habit, or regularly drive smoking passengers, what do you need to know?

Private vehicles

The laws introduce an offence which applies strictly to private vehicles that are enclosed.

If you have a convertible then, providing that the roof is down completely and stowed, it will not be classed as an enclosed vehicle and you can smoke even with minors in the car with you.

The same will not be the case if you have a sunroof open and you would be committing an offence if you smoke with a minor in the car.

Don’t think you can get away with smoking with the door of the car open as this is still treated as an enclosed vehicle for the purpose of the offence, regardless of whether the engine of the car is running.

The new rules apply to all sorts of vehicles aside from regular cars such as motorhomes, campervans and caravans but only when they are being used as a vehicle.

The new smoking law does not apply when they are being used as living accommodation.

NHS Smokefree advert

This advert by NHS Smokefree, the anti-smoking campaign from Public Health England, aims to highlight the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Children

Your teenagers may think and act as though they are in their mid-twenties but if you have a person in an enclosed vehicle and they are not yet 18, you would be committing the offence if you smoke with them in the car with you.

It wasn’t me!

If it wasn’t you smoking but you are a driver or provisional driver, then it won’t cut it to say it wasn’t your fault.

You are expected to stop someone else from smoking in an enclosed car with under-18s.

If you don’t, then you will be liable to a fine just as if you had been smoking yourself.

E-cigarettes

You will be legal if you choose to smoke e-cigarettes in the car with a minor as the law only applies to tobacco cigarettes including roll ups. 

 Man smoking in car

Are there any defences?

Aside from disputing the allegation that you or another passenger was smoking, or in the case of failing to stop someone from smoking, that you did not know or that you took reasonable steps to stop your passenger from smoking, there may be little to say in your defence.

You would have to go through the rigmarole and stress of attending court and giving evidence that you were not smoking or it was not reasonable to comply with the duty to stop a passenger from smoking.

If it is your word against a police officer, you may find this an uphill struggle.

Penalties

The police will have the power to deal with the offence by way of a fixed penalty of £50.

If disputed and convicted at court, the maximum fine for the offence of smoking in an enclosed vehicle with children could be £200.

However, controversially, if convicted of the offence of failing to stop a person from smoking in an enclosed vehicle, the fine could be as much as the maximum of £2,500.

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