A new law banning anyone from lighting up in a vehicle containing passengers aged under 18 comes in today – despite concerns that 3.1 million smokers are unaware of the ban.
A survey by Kwik Fit Insurance has found that 22% of smokers don’t realise the new law is being introduced, putting them at risk of £50 on-the-spot fines.
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The research has found that more than 9 million smokers admit to previously smoking in a car containing children – meaning a whopping £458 million in fines could be raked in if they continue.
But research by the RAC has found that the majority of motorists don’t have enough confidence in the police to enforce the new laws.
RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “Nine in 10 motorists have concerns about the extent to which the new law is likely to be enforced. This is perhaps well-founded as traffic police officer numbers have fallen by nearly a quarter (23%) between 2010 and 2014 across forces in England and Wales, so it is hard to see how people flouting the law are going to be caught.
“The new ban joins a raft of other laws that have been introduced in recent years, such as making it illegal to undertake or hog the middle lane of a motorway. But without sufficient enforcement, there is a real danger that these laws will quickly be forgotten by a large proportion of the motoring population.”
Kwik Fit’s research found the majority of drivers support the ban – both smokers (80%) and non-smokers (87%). But they disagree about the £50 fines, with more than a quarter of smokers finding it too harsh, while one in five non-smokers claim it’s too lenient.
Stewart Barnett, Marketing Director at Kwik Fit Insurance Services said: “While there are a few differences in opinion on the ins and outs of the new law, it appears that the majority of people, whether they smoke or not, are in agreement that protecting the health of the nation’s children is the most important factor in these new rules.
“Cutting back on smoking has obvious long-term health benefits for all car passengers, not just children. Drivers need to make sure they are fully aware of the new rules in order to make sure they stay on the right side of the law. The added benefit is that the dangerous practice of driving with the distraction of smoking will also be limited.”
The survey also found that many smokers think there should be some leniency around the punishment, with 50% saying fines shouldn’t be issued if windows are left open, and 36% thinking having the air-con on should allow them to dodge the penalty.
Interestingly, more than a third of those surveyed – smokers and non-smokers – said they’d report a driver or passenger they saw smoking in the car.