From 1 October, a new law will come into force, making it illegal to smoke tobacco in a vehicle carrying anyone under the age of 18.
The restrictions do not apply to so-called ‘e-cigarettes’, however, the new legislation will also make it an offence for people under 18 to buy e-cigarettes, or for anyone to purchase cigarettes/e-cigarettes for someone under 18.
The new law will work in a similar way to the law regarding the wearing of seatbelts in a vehicle. Not only is the individual themselves responsible for ensuring that they comply with the legislation, the driver of the vehicle can also be held responsible, even if they are not the one contravening the law. Therefore if a passenger in the rear of a vehicle was smoking with a child in the car, the driver could also be prosecuted for permitting this, even if they claimed they were unaware.
The government have indicated that these offences will be dealt with by imposing a fixed penalty of £50, although the police also have the power to refer these cases to Court.
There is a provision for convertible vehicles which have the roof down. This is not considered to be an enclosed vehicle and is therefore exempt from the new legislation. However, simply winding down the window in a vehicle is not sufficient. Similarly if the driver had the vehicle’s sun roof open it would be classed as ‘enclosed’.
Furthermore, there is no requirement to actually be driving for an offence to be committed. The government’s publication on the new rules confirms that someone sitting and smoking in the doorway of an enclosed vehicle can be punished.
The law does make allowances for what constitutes a ‘vehicle’. As mentioned above, a vehicle must be enclosed for the restrictions to be in place. However it is not simply limited to cars, vans etc. Motorhomes and caravans can also be classed as vehicle for the purposes of this legislation, although they must be actively being used as a vehicle rather than living space. For example, if a caravan is stationary and disconnected from any vehicle then it will be classed as living space and therefore not subject to the new restrictions.
The new law will only come into effect in England and Wales on the 1st October. The Scottish Parliament is considering imposing similar legislation, although no decision has yet been made.
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