No Prosecutions Since Car Smoking Ban

Not one person in the Cleveland, North Yorkshire or Durham police force areas has been warned or fined for smoking in a vehicle carrying children since a new ban was introduced.

Offenders caught smoking in a vehicle with a child under 18 in it are liable for a £50 fixed penalty, reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days, or a fine of up to £200 if convicted in a magistrates’ court.

But figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request show that no motorists have been fined anywhere in the country in the first seven months and only three forces issued verbal warning to offenders –none of them in the North East.

Dyfed-Powys Police gave out four warnings, the Metropolitan Police issued two and one motorists was warned in Devon & Cornwall.

The legislation, the Smoke-Free (Private Vehicles) Regulations, came into force on October 1 last year, after a Private Members Bill was co-sponsored by Stockton North’s Labour MP Alex Cunningham, a long-time campaigner on the issue.

When it was announced that the law would be changed, Mr Cunningham said: “Life will be better and healthier for tens, if not hundreds of thousands of young people as a result of the vote to introduce a ban on smoking in cars when children are present.”

However, police representatives claim the ban is unenforceable due to mistakes made when drafting the legislation that mean officers don’t have powers to issue fixed penalties in the way they can for offences such as failure to wear a seatbelt.

“At the moment, when a motorist is pulled over and is smoking in the car with a child, the officer’s options are to warn them, and offer education around the law and dangers of what they’re doing,” said Jayne Willetts, roads policing lead for the Police Federation.

“If they do report the motorist, the paperwork would be handed to the local authority, which should then follow up the prosecution.

“At the end of the day, changing the mind-set of the public to believe that smoking in cars with children is unacceptable is an issue of education by public health authorities, not an issue of policing.”

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