Media Advisory: Smokefree Private Vehicles Regulations

02 December 2016

From Monday 5th December 2016 a new law takes effect in Scotland which will make it an offence to smoke in a car when a child is present. The Smoking Prohibition (Children in Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Act brings Scotland in line with the law in England and Wales which took effect on 1st October 2015.

The law in Scotland

  • In Scotland the new law will be enforced by local authority environmental health officers who also have responsibility for enforcing the smokefree premises law. This is different to England and Wales where primary responsibility for enforcement lies with police authorities. Officers in Scotland will be able to issue fixed penalty notices of £100 for offences against the law.

The law in England and Wales

  • The Children and Families Act 2014 gave the Secretary of State for Health the power to legislate against smoking in private vehicles when children are present. Regulations to this effect were passed by Parliament February 2015 and the law entered into force on 1st October 2015 in England and Wales. [1]
  • The Smokefree Private Vehicles Regulations 2015 require private vehicles to be smokefree when they are enclosed and a person under the age of 18 is present. These regulations make it an offence for:
    –       A person to smoke in a private vehicle when someone under the age of 18 is present
    –       A driver not to stop a person smoking when someone under the age of 18 is present


  • In England and Wales the primary responsibility for detecting and reporting offences against this regulation is intended to lie with police authorities. This is because they already have the authority to stop vehicles and can enforce these regulations as part of their road safety responsibilities.
  • Local authorities have the right to appoint officers to deal with individual offences as they are discovered or reported. Local authorities also have a key role in building compliance through education and awareness campaigns.

Compliance with the law

  • Since the law took effect in England and Wales there have been very few convictions. Support for the law is high and therefore compliance is also likely to be very high. This is borne out by surveys conducted by ASH and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH).
  • The ASH Smokefree Youth survey for 2016 found that 86% of children report no exposure to smoking in cars compared to 83% last year. [2] Further, the ASH Smokefree GB survey found that the law prohibiting smoking in cars carrying under 18s is supported by 87% of adults in England, including three quarters (76%) of smokers. [3]
  • Surveys in Scotland also show strong support for the law. The most recent YouGov poll revealed that 75% of Scottish adults (and 61% of smokers) agreed that smoking should be banned in cars that are carrying children younger than 18 years old. This suggests that compliance is also likely to be high in Scotland with a strong level of support for the law.
  • In England there is also growing support for legislation to cover smoking in all cars: 62% of adults in England supported this measure in 2016 compared to 59% last year. Prohibition of smoking in all cars would make enforcement easier and reduce the risk of accidents and fires. ASH believes that it is now time to extend the law to protect the health of adults as well as children.

Research on compliance

  • CIEH and Improving Performance in Practice (iPiP) conducted research into compliance levels at demonstration sites in Warwickshire and County Durham.
  • A total of 255 vehicles were inspected at 8 locations. No offences against the regulations were observed throughout this research, [4] illustrating high levels of compliance.

Notes and Links:


[1] Legislation.Gov.UK, Children and Families Act 2014

[2] ASH Smokefree Youth survey 2016. All figures unless otherwise stated are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 2,331 11-18 year olds. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th March and 10th April 2016. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB youth aged 11-18.

[3] ASH Smokefree GB Survey 2016. All figures unless otherwise stated are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 10,058 adults in England. Fieldwork was undertaken between the 2nd and 23rd March 2016. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults aged 18+.

[4] CIEH and iPiP, Smoke-free (Private Vehicles) Regulations 2015: Demonstration projects using compliance measures in controlled locations, September 2016