Since the crackdown started, only one motorist has been fined
Back in October 2015, a law passed which made it illegal for drivers to smoke in their cars while carrying any passengers under the age of 18. However, through a Freedom of Information request, it’s been discovered that out of all 42 police forces in England and Wales there has been only one single £50 penalty issued within the first 12 months.
The push to bar the act of smoking in cars with children came from health campaigners who said that the movement would help protect the lives of children and other passengers from being exposed to toxic fumes put out by smoking. Opponents of the movement cited that it would be an unnecessary and unworkable law – and that only two or three people would actually be fined a year.
Why aren’t there many fines?
According to police forces, there are several problems with the law which explains why there are so few fines. For one, the law has been cited as unenforceable.
The Great Manchester Police stated that it’s, “unclear from the legislation who can issue such fines on whose behalf,” while the Police Federation said that it has been “really difficult,” to enforce, arguing that a, “piece of the jigsaw is missing in the law.”
Others view the law as excessive and unnecessary because smoking in cars with children is already viewed as a social taboo to begin with.
Simon Clark, director of the smoker’s group Forest, explained that, “Even before the ban very few people smoked in cars carrying children. The overwhelming majority of smokers know it’s not considerate. They don’t need busybody politicians telling them how to behave.”
Department of Health defends the ban
Health officials and ministers supporting the crackdown are still hopeful that the law will deter drivers from smoking in cars with young passengers. Their hope is to shift public opinion and social attitudes and not only give out fines.
A Department of Health spokesman said, “We have always been clear that the measure of success for this legislation will be in changes in attitude and behaviour, not the number of enforcement actions.”
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, hopes that the legislation will continue to reinforce the public support on the ban on smoking in cars with children. Citing that 87% of adults do support the ban, she also explained that, “By having the legislation and penalties, we send a strong message to people that smoking in cars is no longer acceptable.”
When the law was first introduced, one politician Ken Clarke even predicted that, “I don't think our traffic police are going to be concentrating enormous efforts on racing up and down the motorway peering into cars, trying to see whether there's a child. We'll probably find two or three people fined a year.”