From October 1 2015 it will be illegal to smoke in a car if you are carrying a passenger that is under 18 years old. The fine is £50 and brings England in line with Wales. This applies whether you are a driver or a passenger.
The law doesn’t apply if you are driving alone, or if you are driving a convertible car with the top down.
According to the British Lung Foundation more than 430,000 kids are exposed to second-hand smoke in cars every week, and this increases the chances of asthma, cot death, meningitis and other illnesses.
Smokers’ group Forest doesn’t support the ban saying that drivers “don’t need to state micro-managing their lives”, and that “the overwhelming majority of smokers know it’s inconsiderate to smoke in a car with children.” There are around 10 million adult smokers in the UK according to ASH.
Apart from the obvious health benefits, cutting smoking in cars will reduce accident risk as the act of lighting up a cigarette and holding it takes the driver’s concentration away from the road, smoke impairs vision and there’s a risk of dropping the cigarette. A study in Taiwan found that lighting up in your car doubled your chance of having a fatal accident. A study by an insurance company in 2007 found that 45% of all motorists who smoke have had an accident or near miss due to the habit due to dropping a cigarette, taking hands off the wheel to light up, taking a cigarette out of the carton, or visual impairment due to smoke in the car. The Highway Code says that drivers can be charged if they are “not in proper control of a car”.
A final benefit is financial – less cigarettes smoked means less money spent on cigarettes, but also improves the resale value of the car. Cigarette smoke is a notoriously difficult smell to get out of car upholstery, and can put some purchasers off.
Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.