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Car Smoke Ban Flop

Legislation brought in to stop smoking in cars has been an absolute failure.

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The Conservatives introduced new legislation on October 1st to ban smoking from cars carrying children and young people. Vapers feared that they would be indiscriminately stopped as a result, possibly taken to court by mistake. The latest news is that the legislation has been an abject failure.

To justify the ban at the time, the government said: “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.” A spokesperson hailed it as “a landmark in protecting children from second hand smoke".

The legislation also made it illegal for anyone to sell e-cigs or juice to anybody less than 18 years of age. Also, it became illegal for an adult to buy vaping equipment or liquids for under-18s. How has the law been implemented? Poorly, according to a police spokesperson, because it was badly thought out. To begin with, the legislation didn’t apply to all vehicles; soft-top convertibles and coupes with the roof down and stowed are classed as open vehicles. In such a case the law will not apply and no law broken. Plus, motorhomes, campervans and caravans also fall under the new law while they are on the road. They become exempt once stopped and being used as accommodation. We predicted confusion and chaos at the time.

This has led to confusion and indifference on the part of the police force. Figures obtained by the BBC suggest that the police are choosing not to enforce it.  Over the last seven months only three police forces from the forty-two in England and Wales have carried out any stops relating to smoking in cars. None of those stops have resulted in anything other than a verbal warning – no drivers have been issued with the statutory £50 fine.

Nigel Rabbits is the branch spokesperson for the Devon and Cornwall Police Federation. Stating that the new law left officers “confused as to where they stand,” he added: “It is poor legislation that hasn't been thought through and it's very difficult to enforce because you are talking about looking at a vehicle and trying to figure out what's going on inside. If you're looking for someone under the age of 18 that's difficult without stopping the vehicle and once the vehicle has been stopped getting the evidence for prosecution is extremely difficult.”

Deborah Arnott, speaking on behalf of ASH UK: “This is a social law. We are never going to see the police putting a large amount of effort into it. But by having the legislation and penalties we send a strong message to people that this is no longer acceptable.”

A Department of Health spokesperson: “In changing the law we always said the measure of success would be in changes in attitude and behaviour, not number of enforcement actions. As with other smoke-free legislation, we expect high levels of compliance with this change that will continue to grow.”

Have you been stopped by the police when you were only vaping? Do you believe there’s a point to a law that the police aren’t going to enforce?

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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