THE BLOG

Should It Really Be Illegal to Smoke in a Car When You Have a Child in the Car? How Will It Be Enforced and What is Next?

03/02/2014 15:47 GMT | Updated 05/04/2014 10:59 BST

Any sensible adult knows that one should not smoke around children and especially when one is in an enclosed space such as a car or even in the same room; however do we really need legal legislation for this? There are a number of issues that we need clarification on, but we also must ask how the police are going to enforce this law?

The first question is how old is a child? People under 18 are not allowed to buy tobacco, but one can smoke from the age of 16. So one major question is how are the police going to define a child in a car if someone is smoking? The police have better things to do other than look for someone smoking in a car and then look if there is someone under the age of 18 or 16 in the vehicle. Also, how easy is it to determine someone's age when you only have a quick glimpse of them in a car? Yes if they are in a child's seat then this is quite easy, but a lot of child seats are located on the back seat of cars so how will the police be able to see these children?

Second, it is unclear whether the driver or passenger is not allowed to smoke when he/she is waiting to pick up a child or has a child in the car at any time. Anyone who has been in a car where someone has been smoking will know that there is a distinct smell and if the person has just finished their cigarette then there is a relatively high density of smoke in the atmosphere. Therefore, the question must be asked whether this ban will apply to anyone who may have a child in their car at some point in the future. This is obviously impossible for the police to enforce and completely ludicrous. The scenario that police will have the power to charge people for smoking if they have a child seat in the car, but no child, opens a can of worms: for example, when do the police know a child will be going into that car and how often the driver or passenger smokes in that car? This could quite easily lead to people removing child seats and therefore putting the child at greater risk. It could also extend the police ability to search individuals at will; in essence extending the controversial stop and search legislation.

If the law is only going to be enforced if a child is present in the car then the whole legislation is pointless; picture this situation - three adults go to pick up a toddler from nursery and while they are waiting for the toddler and driving to the nursery they all have two or three cigarettes without the windows being opened (now one has no reason to open a car window when smoking because it is illegal to flick the cigarette out of the window), so the car is completely full of smoke and the child gets in and inhales this smoke. This is clearly dangerous for the child but is not illegal if the adults are not smoking when the child is in the car.

One of the most contentious issues is the question of where is this leading? Are the Government and particularly the Labour party going for a total ban on smoking in cars just in case a child might be in that car at some point? Will the next argument suggest that smoking while you are driving should be illegal because it is distracting you (even though nicotine heightens a smoker's concentration)? Surely a person's car is one's own personal space and it is interesting to note that if you have a child in a caravan or tent it is legal to smoke, however for some reason it is not in a car? Would anyone from the Government like to explain that reasoning? Are we heading to a point where one will not be able to smoke in a house when a child is present?

To reiterate, smoking round children is extremely harmful and the Government should produce more educational information about this. However last time I looked, the UK was a free country and we are quickly turning into a Nanny-State, where the Government determines what one can eat, drink, smoke and even say! What comes next? Will parents be charged if they do not feed their child a healthy diet? Are drivers going to be banned from eating, drinking or even talking while they are behind the wheel? The Government must respect people's decisions and stop interfering in our private lives!