11th Dec, 2016

No-one in district prosecuted yet under new smoking law

Stratford Editorial 4th Sep, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

POLICE in the district are yet to prosecute anyone for smoking in cars while carrying children.

That is despite The Observer spotting dozens of drivers breaking the law – brought in last October – to prevent those under the age of 18 from inhaling second hand smoke, which can lead to conditions such as meningitis, cancer, bronchitis and pneumonia.

In a car dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes can be up to 100 times higher than safety guidelines recommend.

Drivers or passengers who light up while a young person is in the vehicle can now receive a £50 fine.

But a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Observer found no drivers had yet been cautioned or fined for the offence in the district, or anywhere else in Warwickshire.

Warwickshire Police say the figure could be because officers were choosing to stop and advise those breaking the law rather than take stronger action.

Chi Insp Faz Chishty said: “Since October 1 last year it has been against the law to smoke in a private vehicle while a person aged under 18 is present.

“Warwickshire Police recognises the paramount importance of the health and wellbeing of young people, and if this law is witnessed being broken, officers can issue a caution or a fixed penalty notice.

“Where appropriate, officers can also use their professional judgment and have the discretion to advise and educate the smoker if it is more justifiable to do so.

“If other road users do witness an adult smoking in front of a minor whilst inside a vehicle, we would encourage them to report it to police.”

The law – which does not include e-cigarettes – applies to any vehicle with a roof.

At the time the legislation was announced, chief medical officer Prof Sally Davies said: “This is a landmark in protecting children from secondhand smoke.

“Smoking just a single cigarette in a vehicle exposes children to high levels of air pollutants and cancer-causing chemicals like arsenic, formaldehyde and tar, and people often wrongly assume that opening a window, or letting in fresh air, will lessen the damage.

“There is no safe way to smoke in a car with a child.”