While smoking in your car isn’t illegal on its own, thanks to legislation passed in 2015, smoking in the car when children are around is. This important law applies to every driver in England and Wales, and protects children from the harm done by secondhand smoke.
Here’s what you need to know, and a few tips on other ways to stay sane with children in the car.
Is it illegal to smoke in a car with children?
It’s illegal to smoke in a vehicle carrying anyone under 18 years of age, and both the driver and the smoker could be fined £50 for doing so. Under the same legislation, anyone in a car carrying a child could be fined for not stopping someone else from smoking.
The bottom line? Don’t smoke in the car when there are youngsters around.
Why is smoking in cars with children illegal?
The legislation was passed to protect children and young people from secondhand smoke. Sometimes referred to as ‘passive smoking’, breathing in secondhand smoke can put children at risk of serious conditions such as meningitis, cancer, bronchitis and pneumonia, and make pre-existing conditions like asthma worse.
Why can’t I just open a window?
Cigarette smoke contains high levels of air pollutants and cancer-causing chemicals like arsenic, formaldehyde and tar, which are not adequately blown away or dissipated simply by opening a window. In the confined space of a moving vehicle, there is no way for a child to maintain a safe distance.
What about vaping or e-cigarettes?
Currently the legislation does not apply to vaping or e-cigarettes.
What else do I need to know?
The law applies to any private vehicle enclosed by a roof, even if the smoker is sitting in the open doorway of the vehicle. It doesn’t apply to drivers who are 17 if they are alone in the car.
What can I do instead?
If the thought of a long car journey with children makes you anxious, there are plenty of ways to make the experience less stressful besides smoking.
- Play car games. Come up with several options ahead of time so you don’t get stuck. I Spy, Scavenger Hunts, and 20 Questions are all good options.
- Add extra time. Travelling with children always takes longer than you think it will, so avoid stress by leaving plenty of extra time to deal with minor emergencies – like forgetting a mobile phone at a service station.
- Bring entertainment. Books, devices with movies and games, in-car DVD players, singalong CDs– all will keep the kids occupied when you need a bit of quiet time.
- Take breaks, and be flexible about when you take them. Give everyone time to stretch and use the loo – and time for you to smoke at a safe distance from your children if you need.
- Pack snacks. Pack snacks. And one more thing: pack snacks!
If you’re a smoker who’s considering quitting, there are lots of resources around to help you take the first step towards a healthier lifestyle. Visit the NHS’s Smokefree website to find out how you can stop smoking.
At Compass Fostering, we follow governmental guidelines regarding secondhand smoke and have our own policies about placing children with foster carers who smoke. While smoking does not automatically rule you out as a foster carer, there are important guidelines to follow. Learn more about our smoking regulations in this article, or get in touch to find out more.