MPs have recently voted in favour of an amendment to the Children and Families Bill, which will see drivers caught smoking in cars carrying children under 18 years of age hit with a £60 fine or 5 points on their licence.
The new law, expected to come into force from October 2015, also states that drivers who fail to stop passengers smoking in front of a child face fines of up to £10,000, with a surprisingly lower maximum fine of £800 imposed on the passenger. The driver would have to demonstrate at court that they took ‘reasonable steps’ to stop the passenger lighting up.
A YouGov poll in 2014 found that 77% of adults in Great Britain agreed that smoking should be banned in cars carrying children younger than 18 years of age, including 63% of smokers.
This appears to be a seemingly popular amendment to the law but not all of the public are so supportive. What will drivers think if they are faced with a fine of up to £10,000 and 5 penalty points for preventing others lighting up in their vehicle? Some believe that this is another example of an increasingly intrusive ‘nanny state’. However, we recall a similar outcry when seatbelt laws came in during the 1980s. Surely no one now questions how important those laws are? Indeed, 46% of people polled by YouGov agree smoking should be banned in all cars.
We live in a society where the child’s welfare is paramount, and rightly so in my opinion. This law is ethically justifiable to protect a section of society who are not fully autonomous and powerless in this situation to protect their own wellbeing.
International research found that in a moving car, the level of second-hand smoke produced by a single cigarette can be as high as 7 times the average level of a smoky bar; rising to 11 times higher in a stationary car!
The Prime Minister David Cameron suggests the ‘time has come’ for a full ban to be implemented, whilst his deputy and right-hand man Nick Clegg believes the ban would be illiberal and unenforceable.
Enforceable or not, it is refreshing to hear of a positive change to the law which protects those most vulnerable in society – our children.