We're not here to judge your habits, but lighting up in the car might be bad for more than just your health: it could impact on your driving. To clear up any confusion about when you can and can't smoke in the car, we've reviewed the laws and made it clear below.
Is it illegal to smoke and drive?
Contrary to the popular driving myth, it's not illegal to smoke and drive. The Highway Code doesn't make it a specific offence to smoke while driving in a vehicle used primarily for private purposes, any more than it’s a specific offence to change a CD, read a map or eat. But coupled with bad driving, or if they lead to an accident, any of these behaviours could result in a charge of careless driving, or not being in a position to control the vehicle.
They can also be used to show dangerous driving, an offence which could lead to imprisonment, particularly if the dangerous driving causes a death.
Rule 148 of the Highway Code includes smoking as one of a number of distractions to be avoided when driving or riding:
- Loud music (this may mask other sounds)
- Trying to read maps
- Inserting a cassette or CD or tuning a radio
- Arguing with your passengers or other road users
- Eating and drinking
What about smoking in company vehicles?
In England, company vehicles are required to be smoke free at all times if they’re:
- Used to transport members of the public, or
- Used in the course of paid or voluntary work by more than one person – regardless of whether they are in the vehicle at the same time.
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland it’s an offence to smoke in any vehicle used for work, unless that vehicle’s a car.
Smoke-free vehicles have to display a no-smoking sign in each compartment of the vehicle in which people can be carried. This must show the international no-smoking symbol no smaller than 70mm in diameter.
When carrying people, smoke-free vehicles with a roof that can be stowed or removed will not be required to be smoke free when the roof is completely removed or stowed.
Employers may impose policies on smoking in vehicles that go further than the legislation so you should check your employer's policy too.
Is it illegal to smoke in a car with children?
The Children and Families Act 2015 made smoking in cars with children an offence. The law makes it clear that it’s illegal to:
- Smoke in a private vehicle with someone under age 18 present
- Fail to prevent smoking in a private vehicle with someone under age 18 present
The law doesn't apply to a convertible car with the roof completely down but does apply to all vehicles 'wholly or partly enclosed by a roof', and still applies:
- If you have windows or a sunroof open.
- If you have the air conditioning on.
- If you sit in the open doorway of the vehicle.
The rules don't apply to e-cigarettes.
Failing to prevent smoking in a smoke-free private vehicle in England and Wales risks a fixed penalty notice of £50.