Motorists who flout new legislation, which bans smoking in cars whilst children are present inside the vehicle are unlikely to be prosecuted or fined, after police suggested they would turn a blind eye.
Smoking in Vehicles
From 1st October 2015, any driver who is caught smoking in a vehicle whilst carrying someone under the age of 18, will be breaking the law and will face a fixed penalty fine of £50. The legislation does not apply to a driver who is alone in the vehicle or if you are carrying passengers who are 18 or over. However, it will apply to those who smoke with their window wound down or with air-conditioning on, as long as a child is present within the vehicle. It will also apply to those drivers whose passengers smoke whilst a child is within the vehicle.
The introduction of the legislation on October 1st coincides with the start of Stoptober, the annual NHS campaign to quit smoking which runs throughout the month of October. The 28 day national no smoking campaign encourages smokers across the country to stop smoking. Experts say Stoptober is an opportunity for smokers to make a positive change in their lives and quit. Statistics suggest that those who quit for 28 days are five times more likely to stay smoke free.
The law has been brought in after widespread research highlighted the damage that was done to children’s health from second hand smoke in vehicles. Experts think up to three million children are currently exposed to smoke in cars, putting them at risk of serious conditions including asthma, bronchitis and chest and ear infections. A ban on smoking in cars carrying children is already in place in some countries in Europe as well as parts of Australia and Canada and certain states in America.
Police to turn a blind eye
Whilst the police will now have the power to stop drivers and issue on the spot fixed penalty notices, some high ranking officers have indicated that officers in their forces will not be applying the law forcefully and will focus instead on taking a “non-confrontational” approach.
A spokesman for the National Police Chiefs’ Council said drivers would be “educated” rather than prosecuted which would appear to devalue the introduction of the legislation.
The spokesman said:
“As the existing smoke-free law extends to vehicles, police forces will be following guidance from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health by taking an educational, advisory and non-confrontational approach when enforcing the new legislation.
“Local authorities enforce the existing legislation and police forces are included as enforcement authorities for the new offences.
“During this period individual offences that justify enforcement action will be reported to local authorities.”
This view was confirmed by a source at the Department for Health. It was admitted that police would not begin proactively hunting for those flouting the law but rather that the legislation would underline a “cultural change” in the habits of those who smoke whilst driving.
Such source commented:
“We do not believe that anyone wants to poison their children through second hand smoke and like other smoking campaigns we hope there will be a change in the way people behave.”
“We will not be measuring the success of this campaign by how many fines are handed out. ”
It is thought the police will keep an eye out for those breaking the law when they stop motorists as part of wider road safety campaigns, but will not be chasing after parents they see lighting up at the wheel.
Need to speak to a Specialist Motoring Lawyer?
This article was researched and written by Ruth Peters, Specialist Motoring Solicitor. Olliers Motor law specialise in defending motoring prosecutions. If you require advice from a specialist motoring lawyer please contact us on 0808 1680017.