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In July 2009 England introduced smoke-free laws applying to vehicles
In July 2009 England introduced smoke-free laws applying to vehicles.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland already had smoke-free vehicle legislation in place.
Smoke-free vehicle laws affect drivers, as do references to smoking and driving in the Highway Code, which also carries some legal weight.
Company vehicles are required to be smoke free at all times if they are used:
In Scotland it is an offence to smoke in any vehicle used for work, unless that vehicle is a car. This rule also applies to vehicles from other parts of the UK.
Smoke-free vehicles must 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 persons, 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.
Vehicles that are used primarily for private purposes are not required to be smoke free.
Check your employer's smoking in vehicles policy as well – they may impose policies on smoking in vehicles that go further than the legislation.
Smoking is included in the Highway Code (Rule 148) as one of a number of distractions to be avoided when driving or riding.
Avoid distractions when driving or riding such as:
You MUST NOT smoke in public transport vehicles or in vehicles used for work purposes in certain prescribed circumstances. Separate regulations apply to England, Wales and Scotland.
The Highway Code doesn't make it a specific offence to smoke while driving, any more than it is a specific offence to change a cassette, read a map or eat.
However, if any of these behaviours are coupled with bad driving, or lead to an accident, a charge of careless driving, or not being in a position to control the vehicle becomes a distinct possibility.
These behaviours can also be used to show dangerous driving, an offence which could lead to imprisonment, particularly if the dangerous driving causes a death.
A good comparison would be with using mobile telephones. Being seen to use a hand-held phone is now a specific offence (the Highway Code says 'MUST NOT').
Using a hands-free phone is not a specific offence, but provides grounds for a careless or dangerous driving prosecution in the event of erratic driving or an accident.
(9 July 2012)