On October 1st, 2015, the UK government will introduce a set of new regulations to cover smoking and cigarettes, including e-cigarettes. Most of the new rules concern e-cigarettes, as this is a new technology. However, there will also be a change to the laws surrounding smoking in new and used cars, in response to increasing concerns about the effects of passive smoking, or breathing in smoke from others’ cigarettes, on children and teenagers.
Under the new law, it will be illegal for driver or passengers to smoke in an enclosed vehicle carrying one or more people aged under eighteen. Responsibility for enforcing the rule lies with the driver. Offenders face a £50 fine, which applies not only to the person smoking but to the driver, so it is possible to be issued with two separate fines for the same offence.
There are exceptions to the rule. E-cigarettes are not included in the ban, and under eighteens who are alone in a vehicle may still smoke.
The law specifies enclosed vehicles, so open topped cars are exempt, as are convertibles when the roof is fully down and stowed. A car with a sun roof is still classed as enclosed when the roof is open. The rule applies to camper vans and mobile homes while they are on the move, but not when they are being used as accommodation.
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The motor trade comes under a separate ruling. Cars on trade plates, or vehicles primarily used for business, like company vans and chauffeur driven cars, are classed as business premises. Smoking in these vehicles has been prohibited since 2007, as well as on public transport.
It will be interesting to see the effects of the new law. For several years, cigarette lighter sockets in vehicles have been used to power small electrical items, and many new cars are supplied with the power socket only, without the lighter attachment. Lighter attachments and ash trays in private cars may soon seem as archaic as trafficators and running boards.
Using a mobile phone without a hands free attachment while driving is illegal, since it could be dangerously distracting. Lighting and smoking a cigarette can also be seen as a potential distraction for drivers, since it involves removing a hand from the wheel and takes concentration and focus away from the road ahead. Is it possible that non-smokers will see a reduction in their insurance policy?