Smoking in public is a contentious issue. In July 2007, smoke-free legislation was introduced in England and Wales to protect employees and the public from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. This meant that allocated smoking rooms were no longer allowed and it was against the law to smoke in indoor places such as bars and clubs. That legislation does not extend to smoking in cars unless they are classed as company vehicles or would be used by the public, such as a taxi or learner driver car.
At the moment, smoking while driving is not an offence in itself, but if it distracts the driver to the point where it causes careless driving, it could draw the attention of the law and even escalate to dangerous driving, which is a chargeable offence.
New smoking law
From 1 October 2015 it will be illegal to smoke in a car carrying children in England. This is similar to the ban that the Welsh Assembly has already imposed on drivers in Wales, and Scotland is also considering changing its rules on smoking in cars when children are present. It will also be an offence to not prevent smoking in a car carrying children. The penalty for not adhering to the new law is a £50 fine.
Every time someone breathes in second-hand smoke, they breathe in over 4,000 chemicals. Many are highly toxic and more than 50 are known to cause cancer. Over 430,000 children are exposed to second-hand smoke in cars each week, according to the British Lung Foundation, which can increase the risk of asthma, meningitis and cot death. In fact, in 2012, 26% of 11-15 year olds reported being exposed to second-hand smoke in their family’s car and 30% in someone else’s car. This new law is designed to protect children from this.
The law applies only to people travelling with children, whether the offending smoker is the driver or another passenger. So if you are driving alone or with other adults, you are free to smoke in your vehicle. Also, if the car is a convertible, you can smoke no matter who is in the vehicle with you.
Find further information here on car insurance or speak to one of our RAC advisers on 0330 159 1019* to get a quote.