No ifs, no butts – ban smoking in cars completely

From October 1st smoking in cars carrying anyone under 18 will be banned in England – but a survey has revealed a third of drivers are unaware of the new legislation.
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Allianz Insurance polled 2,000 drivers on the smoking ban and found 34% had no idea the new regulation will take effect later this year. And when asked on their current smoking habits, the survey found drivers who smoke light up an average of three times a week when there are kids in the car.

Fatal distraction?

The Allianz poll also found a third of motorists rated smoking in cars as a major distraction, with 67% of drivers who smoke admitting lighting up at the wheel affected their concentration. That makes it more risky than both eating at the wheel or loud passengers, although admittedly not as dangerous as speaking on a mobile phone or fiddling with the in-car entertainment system. To put that into some context, research has shown drivers who perform a secondary task while driving are two to three times more likely to crash, while those who use a phone while at the wheel are four times more likely to be involved in a crash that causes injury. And then there’s the effect smoking can have on passengers, particularly youngsters…

Dangerous habit

The dangers of secondhand smoke are well documented, and it’s especially harmful to children, accounting each year for more than 165,000 new episodes of diseases among children, 300,000 primary care consultations, 9,500 hospital admissions and, tragically, around 40 sudden infant deaths. And the effects of cigarette smoke are even more pronounced within the confines of a car - research has shown a single cigarette smoked in a closed car exposes a child in the centre back seat to eleven times more secondhand smoke than would be found in a smoke-filled pub. Even with the window open and the car in motion the same child would be exposed to around two-thirds as much secondhand smoke as that same smoke-filled boozer. So, when we consider the distraction dangers of lighting-up at the wheel and the health implications faced by passengers, the smoking ban is a bit of a no-brainer. Yet it somehow still manages to throw up more questions than answers…

Huffing and puffing

So, from October 1st it will be illegal to smoke in a car carrying anyone under the age of 18. A fine of £50 will be issued to anyone caught smoking or who fails to prevent another person smoking – this is aimed at drivers who let passengers smoke. Straightaway you can see this legislation is riddled with more holes than your average stretch of A-road. For a start, if a person can legally drive and smoke at 17 – weirdly, it’s illegal to sell cigarettes or tobacco to an under-18, but it’s not illegal for an under-18 to smoke – can they be prosecuted if they’re smoking while in the car alone? And if the health risks are so profound, shouldn’t it just be banned in cars no matter how old the passengers are?

Stubborn behaviour

As far as picking up a fine for failing to prevent another passenger from smoking goes, what if you’ve a particularly awkward passenger who won’t stub it out and, as the driver, it’s not safe for you to pull over to remonstrate with them? And, given lighting up at the wheel is such a distraction for so many drivers, shouldn’t it be banned completely for this reason alone?

In short, I think it’s time smoking was banned completely in cars. What do you reckon?

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