Smoking in cars with children to be illegal by October 2015

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Regulations prohibiting smoking in cars with children have been laid before Parliament today so they can be voted on before the General Election and put in place from 1st October 2015.

The regulations will prohibit smoking in cars containing children under 18. [1]

The British Lung Foundation estimates that 430,000 children are exposed to secondhand smoke in their family car every week. [2] Legislation is likely to significantly reduce the levels of exposure; when seatbelt laws were introduced in 1983 compliance rates jumped from 25% to over 90%. [3]

There is already widespread support for smokefree cars when children are present, both among the public and parliamentarians. A poll conducted in March by YouGov for ASH found that 77% of adults, including 64% of smokers, agreed that smoking should be prohibited in cars that are carrying children younger than 18 years of age. [4]

In Parliament, the primary legislation [5] was approved on a free vote by a majority of 376 to 107, a majority of 269 – a larger majority than that for the 2007 smokefree public places law. [6] The regulations have the support of the Prime Minister. [7]

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said:

“We are delighted that the Government is to press ahead with regulations to prohibit smoking in cars containing children. We also urge the Government to put the regulations on standardised packaging to Parliament before the general election. This, together with the protection of children from secondhand smoke in cars, will help de-normalise smoking and protect children from this deadly addiction.”

Deborah Arnott went on to say:

“As with the smokefree public places law, this is a popular measure that will largely be self-enforcing. However, secondhand smoke is just as harmful to adults as children and it makes it more difficult to enforce if it only applies to some cars not all. Seatbelt laws don’t just apply to children, why should smokefree car laws?”



[1] Smoking in private vehicles carrying children: Written statement – HCWS133

[2] Top Ten Myths about the ban on smoking in cars with children, British Lung Foundation

[3] Seat-belts and child restraints. World Health Organization/FIA Foundation, 2009.

[4] YouGov 2014 Total sample size was 12269 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 5th to 14th March 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

[5] The Children and Families Act gained Royal Assent on 13 March 2014.

[6] A record of how MPs and Lords voted is available here.

[7] Shortly before the vote the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that David Cameron thought that “the time has come” for a new offence of exposing children to smoke in vehicles.

For the risk to children from exposure to tobacco smoke in cars, see for example: Semple S et al. Secondhand smoke in cars: assessing children’s potential exposure during typical journey conditions. Tobacco Control 2012; 21: 578-583