New smoking-in-cars law

AA welcomes protection for children, but questions around enforcement remain

It is an offence to smoke in a private vehicle with someone under age 18 present

It is an offence to smoke in a private vehicle with someone under age 18 present

An AA-Populus survey of 29,660 AA members in August found that 92% consider it unacceptable to smoke in a car with a child present.

Now children under the age of 18 will be protected from smoke in cars as, from 1 October 2015, a new law came into force in England and Wales under which offenders will receive a £50 fixed penalty notice.

Under the new law it is an offence to:

  • smoke in a private vehicle with someone under age 18 present; and
  • fail to prevent smoking in a private vehicle with someone under age 18 present

Greatest point of friction will be among young drivers

While 5% of those in the survey sample smoke while driving, this rises to 8% among 18-24 year olds. As some are likely to carry younger friends, determining whether a driver or passenger is younger than 18 will be the greatest challenge for enforcement.

The regulations apply to enclosed private vehicles and will not apply to anyone driving alone.

The law won't apply to a convertible car with the roof completely down but will apply to all vehicles 'wholly or partly enclosed by a roof '. It also applies if you have windows or a sunroof open, if you have the air conditioning on, and if you sit in the open doorway of the vehicle.

The rules don't apply to e-cigarettes.

Police will need to differentiate between a roll-up and an e-cig, a 17 year old and an 18 year old, and even a soft top and a sun roof

Edmund King, AA president

Widespread acceptance

“There is widespread acceptance that people should not smoke in cars when children are present and the AA welcomes these changes" says Edmund King, the AA’s president.

Enforcement challenge

"The new law may be difficult to enforce at times. Police will need to differentiate between a roll-up and an e-cig, a 17 year old and an 18 year old, and even a soft top and a sun roof.

Mates' taxi

“The “mates’ taxi” may also be where problems emerge, particularly where a group of friends includes younger occupants. Whether the driver pulls over and refuses to go any further on a vulnerable stretch of road because another occupant lights up, and how long they need to wait before the smoke clears, are practical considerations.

"A group with a smoker may all have to carry ID to safeguard the driver, who is doing them a favour and giving them a lift, from prosecution.”


(1 October 2015)