While it’s not illegal to smoke in the car on its own, smoking in cars with kids present is. This law applies to every driver in England and Wales and is crucial to follow as it protects children from harmful secondhand smoke.
Here’s what you need to know, and a few tips on how to deal with the urge to smoke with children in the car.
What does the law say?
Since October 2015, it has been illegal to smoke in a car with anyone under the age of 18 in the United Kingdom. The law applies to all drivers in England and Wales, as well as to passengers in Scotland.
The driver of the vehicle is responsible for no one smoking inside of it, even if they are not the one’s doing it. If you are caught, you can be fined £50.
Why is it illegal to smoke with kids in the car?
The legislation was put in place to protect children from harmful secondhand smoke. Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk of developing health complications, including cancer, heart disease and respiratory problems. As a result, the government has made many efforts to reduce smoking in public spaces, including cars.
Does the law apply to all vehicles?
The law applies to any private vehicle enclosed by a room, even if the smoker is sitting in the open doorway of the vehicle. This includes cars, vans, trucks and buses. However, it does not apply to convertibles with the roof down, or to drivers who are 17 if they are alone in the car.
What about motor homes and caravans?
If you’re driving your motor home or caravan, then the law still applies. However, if the motor home or caravan is stationary, you are free to smoke inside of it.
Why can’t I just open a window?
While it might be tempting, the law still applies even if you roll a window down. This is because cigarette smoke contains high levels of air pollutants and cancer-causing chemicals like arsenic, formaldehyde, and tar. In the confined space of a moving vehicle, there is no where for these pollutants to go, putting children at risk.
Does the law apply to vaping or e-cigarettes?
Currently, the legislation does not apply to vaping or e-cigarettes. It’s currently unclear how harmful secondhand smoke is from vaping, although you should still be cautious around children as vape aerosol still contains several harmful substances.
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.
- If you have anything in your car that could trigger you to smoke, it’s best to remove it. This includes ashtrays, lighters, ashtrays and cigarettes.
- Keep things that help you tackle cravings in your car. For example, having snacks on hand to keep your mouth busy or nicotine replacement chewing gums.
- Play car games. These can include things such as I Spy, scavenger hunts and 20 questions. If you are the one driving, make sure the game of choice is safe and not too distracting.
- Add extra time to your journey. Travelling with children always takes longer than you think, so make sure to leave plenty of time to deal with any emergencies.
- Make sure there is entertainment. Listening to your favourite music or audio book is a great way to keep you distracted from smoking. If you’re a passenger, you could also use your devices to watch a film or play games.
- Keep your car smoke-free. To help battle the urge to smoke with kids in the car, make it a rule that no one can smoke in your car at all.
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. You can 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. We’re not here to judge, and being a smoker will rule you out as a foster carer, but there are guidelines you will need to follow. You can learn more about our smoking regulations in this article, or contact us to find out more.