You may have seen the recent adverts about Stoptober, the stop smoking challenge beginning in October, but are you aware of the new anti-smoking laws that come into effect on the same day?
From Thursday 1 October 2015 it will be illegal:
- to smoke in a private vehicle carrying anyone under 18
- for retailers to sell e-cigarettes or e-liquids to someone under 18
- for adults to buy (or try to buy) tobacco products or e-cigarettes for someone under 18
The new legislation relating to private vehicles has been brought in to protect children and young people from the dangers of second-hand smoke.
Experts think up to three million children are currently exposed to secondhand smoke in vehicles. Each time a child is exposed to smoke, they breathe in thousands of chemicals and are put at risk of serious medical conditions including meningitis, bronchitis and cancer. It can also trigger the development of asthma. Secondhand smoke is dangerous for anyone but children are much more vulnerable due to their smaller lungs and less developed immune system.
According to the British Lung Foundation, tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals including hundreds that are toxic; at least 70 of them are known to cause cancer.
The law will apply to every driver in England and Wales including those aged 17 and those with a provisional licence.
It will be an offence:
- for a person of any age to smoke in a private vehicle that is carrying someone who is under 18
- for a driver not to stop someone smoking in these circumstances
The rules do not apply to e-cigarettes
The fixed penalty is £50 for each offence. Anyone committing both offences could receive two fines.
The legislation covers any private vehicle that is enclosed even if the windows or sunroof are open, the air conditioning is on, or if the smoker sits in the open doorway of the vehicle. This is because levels of secondhand smoke have been found to be dangerously high in vehicles due to the enclosed space. More than 80% of secondhand smoke is invisible and odourless so opening a window is not enough to reduce the harmful effects.
The law does not apply to a convertible car or coupe with the roof completely down.
As stated by Public Health England, smoking is still the biggest cause of preventable illness and premature deaths accounting for almost 80,000 deaths in England in a year. One in every two long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking related disease unless they quit.
England and Wales are not the first countries to ban smoking in cars carrying children. It is also against the law in some US States, Canada, Australia and Cyprus. The British Lung Foundation is currently campaigning to get the legislation extended to Scotland and Northern Ireland to ensure children throughout the UK are protected.
If you are a smoker wanting to give up, the ban could be the perfect opportunity to kick the habit. Whether you plan to go ‘cold turkey’ or to use e-cigarettes to help you, it can only improve your quality of life.