Smoking in the UK has increasingly become more of a social stigma over the last 10 years, with the ban on smoking in public indoor places, pubs and bars leaving anyone wishing to smoke with limited options.
Smoke with your kids in the car and you will pay
As of the 1st of October, it will be illegal to smoke in a private vehicle if there are children in the car. Being caught smoking in the car with children present will land you an on the spot fine of £50. This applies to all other adults in the car that fail to prevent the smoking. If the case goes to court, passenger smokers can be fined £800 and if the driver of the vehicle fails to prevent the smoking they can be fined £10,000.
We can all agree that the ethics behind this law are sound and just. Protecting children from second hand smoke is important, especially when you consider the size of the inside of the car. The problem is policing the law. If a police officer is unable to see children in the back of the car due to luggage on the parcel shelf or partially tinted back windows but they can see that the driver is smoking, how do they proceed? It would appear to us that a full ban on smoking in vehicles would be simpler to manage and police.
The subject has been broached before when the original ban came into play although it never gained any real traction. Many people spend a lot of time in their car, and smokers may find a full ban hard to adapt to. This particular enforcement avoids a mass public backlash and the potential for smokers ignoring a ban altogether.
According to one government adviser, banning the smoking of cigarettes in private vehicles would remove a “major cause” of road accidents and would protect the health of any passengers along for the ride.
The NHS go to great lengths to not only relay the dangers of smoking, but also that of secondhand and passive smoke and how it can be dangerous for children if they are exposed to it.
— Britain UK (@BritainUK) February 4, 2015
Measures are already being taken around the UK in the renewed smoke free effort. The NHS Lothian Hospital in Scotland has become one of the very first hospitals to extend a full smoking ban in private vehicles on their property. One NHS official said “Our policy is that even if you are on a space hopper, you cannot smoke”. Again, enforcing this rule will come with its own challenges. Director of pro-smoking group Forest said: “It’s unbelievable that they would try to enforce a ban in private vehicles. It’s not harming anyone else. Hospitals can be very stressful places, not just for staff but for visitors.”
Smoking while driving is “distracting”
Studies have shown that car accidents involving smokers usually take place as they are lighting up or retrieving the packet from wherever they have put it in the car. Another study actually reports that nicotine in the blood stream enhances cognitive and psycho-motor function and improves driving performance.
Regardless of this, in 2007 the Driving Standards Agency updated the highway code for the first time in eight years by adding smoking to the list of official “Distractions” that already exist. These include playing loud music, eating, drinking, arguing with your passengers or other road users, trying to read maps and changing CD/tuning the radio.
This gives Police the power (at their discretion) to give a fixed penalty notice to people who are smoking in the car.
If you’re a smoker, do you consider it to be distracting while driving?
Have your say and leave a comment below with your thoughts.