Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Drivers face £10,000 fine if a PASSENGER starts smoking in a car carrying children

Drivers who fail to prevent passengers smoking in front of children face being hit with £10,000 fines.
A new law will make it illegal smoke in a car in England if it is carrying children.
But new health regulations mean the driver or owner of the car will bit hit with a levy more than 10 times higher than the maximum £800 penalty for the person who lights up.
Health campaigners argue the move will save lives by preventing children and other passengers being children being exposed to dangerous levels of toxic fumes.
But opponents said it was ‘excessive and unnecessary’ and a sign of the government
‘flexing its muscles’.
The idea was backed by a majority of MPs in February, forcing ministers to draw up detailed legislation.
But Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Tory veteran Ken Clarke were among those who warned it was illiberal and unworkable.
A consultation slipped out yesterday when the Cabinet reshuffle was underway gave details of the consulting on the practicalities of the regulations.
Buried in the small print was the penalties drivers face if someone is caught smoking in a car carrying unde-18s.
It states: ‘A person who does not comply with the law would be committing a criminal offence.’
Enforcement officers would be able to issue a £50 fixed penalty notices for both smoking in a smokefree vehicle and failure to prevent smoking in a smokefree vehicle.
The only effective way to protect children from secondhand smoke is to prevent them breathing it in in the first place
 Public health minister Jane Ellison
But if the case goes to court, the fines will soar.
Under changes to fine levels which come into force from this autumn, someone caught smoking in a smokefree vehicle can be handed an £800 fine.
But someone who fails to prevent smoking in a smokefree vehicle can be hit with a ‘level 4’ fine of up to £10,000.
It raises the prospect of a driver, or even just the owner, of a car being fined thousands if another adult starts smoking.
To avoid the levy, they would have to show that they took ‘reasonable steps to cause the person smoking to stop smoking, or they did not and could not have reasonably known the person was smoking, or that there was some other reasonable ground for not complying with the duty’.
The Department of Health said the fine structure had been based on the penalties for smoking in public places, banned in 2007.
It means, for example, that someone smoking in a pub is fined less than a landlord who fails to prevent it. 
Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: ‘The only effective way to protect children from secondhand smoke is to prevent them breathing it in in the first place.
‘Exposure to secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard, especially to children and a significant number of children say that they are exposed to secondhand smoke in private vehicles.’
However, when the plans went through Parliament this year, senior Lib Dems and Tories opposed the move.
Deputy PM Mr Clegg - who is a smoker - said that ‘as an old-fashioned liberal’ he believed that ‘laws and legislation are not always the solution’.
And Mr Clarke, the cigar-smoking former Cabinet minister dismissed the in February plans as ‘gesture politics’.
He added: ‘We do keep creating new traffic offences. 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 do create too many traffic offences, I really do think it's gesture politics. We'll probably find two or three people fined a year. It makes the lobbyists feel better.’
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
Senior Tory Ken Clarke 
Campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) urged ministers to bring in the regulation banning smoke in vehicles where children under the age of 18 are present, in England, before the next parliament.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash, said: ‘Cars are small tin boxes where concentrations of tobacco smoke can reach dangerous levels very quickly.
‘As David Cameron himself has said, the time has come for it to be illegal to make children breathe in these toxic fumes. Laws stopping smoking in cars with children are popular with the public, with parliament and with children and we urge the Government to bring them into force before the next election.’
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: 'We are now closer than ever to the introduction of a law that would help prevent hundreds of thousands of children from being exposed to second-hand smoke in a car.
'We therefore expect this consultation will confirm all the details before a ban is finally introduced next year.
'There may well be opposition from the tobacco industry and the campaigning groups they fund, but the evidence of a need for a ban, and its effectiveness, is overwhelming.'
But Simon Clark, director of smokers group Forest, said: 'A ban is excessive and unnecessary. Smoking in cars with children has been in decline for years. Today very few people do it because the overwhelming majority of smokers accept that it's inconsiderate.
'According to research less than 10% of people will be affected by legislation, which will be impossible to enforce, so what's the point?
'Banning smoking in cars with children is a classic case of government flexing its muscles and introducing legislation just because it can.'
A similar consultation will be launched in Wales 'shortly', a Welsh Government spokesman said.
Wales' First Minister Carwyn Jones said: ‘A sizeable minority of young people are still being exposed and adults continue to smoke in their cars when children are present.
‘There is also evidence from the primary school survey that inequalities in children's exposure to second-hand smoke remains, so we will press ahead with plans to ban people smoking in cars carrying children.’

DM

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