No power to enforce smoking in cars ban

15 March 2016

No Smoking

Until police are given more powers, they will remain unable to issue fines to people smoking in cars with children.

On 1 October 2015, new legislation was passed making it illegal to smoke in a vehicle carrying someone who is under 18. However, a series of Freedom of Information requests by the media have shown in recent weeks that no fines or court summons were issued in the first three months of the law.

Jayne Willetts, roads policing lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales, said this was not a surprise, because police have not been given the power to enact the law.

“The original plan was for the public health authority to change the law and give police extended powers. This would allow officers to stop motorists and issue on-the-spot fines, like they currently do for other offences, such as using a mobile phone while driving.

“However, when the law was changed, further legislation needed to be passed, in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice, to give police the power to issue those notices. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, which means there’s a piece of the jigsaw missing.”

Ms Willetts said it came down to the fact that the power to issue a fixed penalty notice hasn’t been given to police, unlike for offences such as excess speed or not wearing a seat belt.

“At the moment, when a motorist is pulled over and is smoking in the car with a child, the officer’s options are to warn them, and offer education around the law and dangers of what they’re doing – or, if they do report the motorist, the paperwork would be handed to the local authority which should then follow up the prosecution,” she said.
“At the end of the day, changing the mindset of the public to believe that smoking in cars with children is unacceptable is an issue of education by public health authorities, not an issue of policing.”