Smoking in Private Vehicles Carrying Children: Proposed Offences

On 15th July 2014, the Department of Health published a consultation containing proposals to make it an offence to:

  • smoke in a private vehicle with someone under age 18 present
  • fail to prevent smoking in a private vehicle with someone under age 18 present.

The stated purpose of the proposed regulations is to protect children from exposure to secondhand smoke in private vehicles, encourage action by smokers to protect children from secondhand smoke and, over time, lead to a reduction in health conditions in children caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.

A private vehicle would, by law, have to be a smoke-free place which is defined as a situation when:

  • the private vehicle is enclosed;
  • there is more than one person present; and
  • a person under age 18 is present.

One interesting scenario involves drivers under the age of 18, where the vehicle would not have to be smoke-free if the driver were the sole person in the car and smoking. Otherwise, the offence would be committed.

Under the proposals, two specific offences would be created:

  • Smoking in a smoke free vehicle – level 1 fine (now £200, but due to increase to £800 in autumn 2014) or a fixed penalty offer in the sum of £50.
  • Failure to prevent smoking in a smoke-free vehicle – level 4 fine (now £2,500 but due to increase to £10,000 in autumn 2014) – or a fixed penalty offer in the sum of £50.

A number of defences will be available, though it would appear to be somewhat difficult to argue a lack of awareness of any smoking within a vehicle in most cases.

The consultation closes on 27th August 2014 and the legislation, assuming it is implemented, will be contained in the Smoke-Free (Private Vehicles) Regulations 2014, currently in draft format.

For further information, please speak to a member of our Regulatory team.