New smoking laws come into force next week - here’s what you need to know

Smoking in cars with people under the age of 18 will be made illegal from Thursday next week.
Smoking in cars with people under the age of 18 will be made illegal from Thursday next week.

A ban on smoking in cars carrying children in England will come into force next week.

From Thursday October 1 2015, several changes to the law around smoking, including a smoke-free zone for children under the age of 18, come into force.

It will be an offence for a person of any age to smoke in a private vehicle that is carrying someone who is under 18 for a driver (including a provisional driver) not to stop someone smoking in these circumstances. The rules don’t apply to e-cigarettes.

The fixed penalty notice fine for both offences is £50. Somebody who commits both offences could get two fines.

Private vehicles must be carrying more than one person to be smoke free so somebody who is 17 and smoking alone in a private vehicle won’t be committing an offence.

Enforcement officers, usually the police, will use their discretion to decide whether to issue a warning or a fixed penalty notice, or whether to refer an offence to court.

It will also be illegal for retailers to sell electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) or e-liquids to someone under 18 for adults to buy (or try to buy) tobacco products or e-cigarettes for someone under 18 to smoke in private vehicles that are carrying someone under 18.

Why is the law changing?

Every time a child breathes in secondhand smoke, they breathe in thousands of chemicals. This puts them at risk of serious conditions, such as meningitis, cancer and respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. It can also make asthma worse.

Secondhand smoke is dangerous for anyone, but children are especially vulnerable, because they breathe more rapidly and have less developed airways, lungs and immune systems. Over 80% of cigarette smoke is invisible and opening windows does not remove its harmful effect.

The law is changing to protect children and young people from such harm.

The legislation covers any private vehicle that is enclosed wholly or partly by a roof. A convertible car, or coupe, with the roof completely down and stowed is not enclosed and so isn’t covered by the legislation. But a vehicle with a sunroof open is still enclosed and so is covered by the legislation.

Sitting in the open doorway of an enclosed vehicle is covered by the legislation.

The rules apply to motor homes, camper vans and caravans when they are being used as a vehicle but don’t apply when they are being used as living accommodation.

The rules don’t apply to boats, ships and aircraft, as they have their own rules work vehicles and public transport, as they are already covered by smoke-free legislation.