From Thursday 1st October 2015 it will be illegal for drivers to either smoke, or allow a passenger to smoke, whilst there is a child in the vehicle.
This new change in the law applies to any enclosed vehicle – such as a car or van – where there is a person or people under the age of 18 present. It does not apply to e-cigarettes. Drivers will be held responsible for smoking by any passengers whilst a child under 18 is in the vehicle.
Under the new legislation the driver, passenger or both could be subject to an on-the-spot fine of £50. The law will not apply to 17 year-old drivers if there are no other under-18s in the vehicle.
The law has come about because second-hand smoke is believed to be a real threat to the health of children. Given that vehicles are a very confined space, the risk is believed to be even greater when children are travelling in a vehicle.
The BBC recently reported these facts and statistics relating to second-hand smoke:
- Smoke can stay in the air for up to two and a half hours even with a window open
- Second-hand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, some of which are known to cause cancer
- Exposure has been strongly linked to chest infections, asthma, ear problems and cot death in children
- Research indicates 300,000 children in the UK visit a GP each year because of the effects of second-hand smoke, with 9,500 going to hospital
- Smoking in a car creates a higher concentration of toxins than in a bar, some research has put it at 11 times higher
- Bans on smoking in cars when children are present already exist in some US states, including California, as well as in parts of Canada and Australia
The Department of Health (DoH) has clarified the types of vehicles and circumstances in which the laws apply:
The law applies to any private vehicle that is enclosed wholly or partly by a roof. It still applies if people have the windows or sunroof open, have the air conditioning on, or if they sit in the open doorway of the vehicle. The law won’t apply to a convertible car with the roof completely down.
The DoH have also issued this short video to explain the changes:
Although the law change is still days away, it has already been the subject of both positive and negative comment in the media. The British Lung Foundation was among the proponents of the law change, while smokers’ group Forest criticised the law which it describes as unenforceable.
If your employees drive on business – be that in a company car or their own private vehicle, you should remind them of this law change immediately.
If you have any queries or would like to discuss any aspect of your Motor Fleet insurance, simply contact us through the website or call your nearest office.