UK smoking ban: smoking in cars with kids now illegal

9 Oct, 2015 6:00am Joe Finnerty

The UK ban on smoking in cars with anyone under 18 present came into force on October 1st 2015. Here's everything you need to know...

New laws to ban smoking in cars with children passengers have come into force in England and Wales. The new rules apply to any driver or passenger in any “enclosed vehicle” when a child under the age of 18 is on board. It is also an offence for a driver, including a provisional driver, not to stop one of their passengers smoking in a private vehicle if there’s a minor present.

Anybody caught breaking the law is subject to a £50 fine in theory but police chiefs and Government officials have admitted that they won’t issue fines to drivers or passengers caught under the new in-car smoking laws for at least three months.

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Ban on smoking in cars with kids: the key facts

  • • New law bans smoking in cars with passengers under the age of 18 in England and Wales. 
  • • Anyone caught breaking the law is subject to a £50 fine. 
  • • It is an offence for a driver, including a provisional driver, not to stop one of their passengers smoking if a minor is present in their vehicle.
  • • The law only applies to private vehicles enclosed wholly or partly by a roof; convertibles with the roof down do not count. 
  • • Use of E-cigarettes is not banned under the new law, but Wales has banned their use in public buildings. 

Legislation came into force in England and Wales on 1 October 2015, banning anyone from smoking in a car with a person under the age of 18 on board. It’s yet another law for traffic cops to enforce on the road, but the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said officers have been advised against issuing fines from the outset. 

A spokeswoman said: “As the existing smoke-free law extends to vehicles, police will be taking an educational, advisory and non-confrontational approach when enforcing it. This would see people given warnings rather than being issued with fines.” 

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Police will pursue this approach for at least three months on the advice of the Department for Health, which believes the public will react to the new law with similar success to the 2007 ban on smoking in pubs. A Government spokeswoman told Auto Express: “What we have learned is that people comply with the law, and it does not always need enforcing. It is about social change – making smoking socially unacceptable – and we believe there will be a high compliance rate without the need for penalty fines. The police can, of course, issue these fines if they want to, but ultimately it’s about people changing their behaviour for the better.” 

Alongside the health and legal incentives not to smoke in cars, Tim Naylor – a spokesman for British Car Auctions – said there is a third benefit to owners. “Presentation is absolutely key when determining used car values,” he explained. “And smoking behind the wheel can seriously damage the resale value of your car.” 

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Figures show currently in England more than 430,000 children aged 11 to 15 are exposed to second-hand smoke in cars every week, and a similar law already exists in some states in America, as well as in Australia, Canada and a few European countries.

Read on for answers to your key questions on the new ban on smoking in cars with kids...

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Will the smoking ban extend to convertible cars?

If you’re driving a convertible with the roof fully down, you needn’t worry – the law only applies to private vehicles enclosed wholly or partly by a roof. That means that having a sunroof or window open won’t cut any ice with police if you’re caught smoking with kids on board. Partially convertible models like the Porsche 911 Targa or the Fiat 500C are also likely to land you on the wrong side of the law, while having the air-conditioning on or sitting in an open doorway aren’t get-out clauses from the new legislation, either.

How does the smoking ban work with 17-year-old drivers?

The law in the UK is a little odd in that you can’t legally buy cigarettes until you’re 18 but it’s actually legal to smoke them when you’re 16. With that in mind, if you’re a 17-year-old with a provisional licence or have recently passed your test, the new smoking in cars law doesn’t ban you from smoking in your own presence. The law does kick in if you’ve got passengers who are under 18, of course.

Are e-cigarettes included in the ban on smoking in cars?

No. The rules don’t apply to e-cigarettes, but smoking them in enclosed spaces is controversial with Wales having banned their use in public buildings. 

Will the ban on smoking in cars with children affect you? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below...