As the Government implements new rules designed to stamp out smoking in vehicles with under 18s on board from the 1st October, new research¹ from financial comparison website money.co.uk, which was carried out amongst 1,000 drivers that smoke in their vehicles, reveals the proposed penalty may not be severe enough.
In fact, 21% of those surveyed claim a £50 fine would not stop them doing it. Despite the Department of Health's best efforts to publicise the change in law, 29% of drivers that smoke in their vehicles are completely unaware of it; a figure which hits nearly four in ten London drivers.
With drivers at risk of being fined twice if they don't stop passengers smoking this could be an expensive oversight.
Our research also reveals that the extent of this widespread problem could be difficult to police as almost two out of three (61%) drivers that smoke admit they do so when they have passengers in their vehicles; 31% of these do it with under 18s on board.
More shockingly, one in ten drivers admit they smoke with children aged 11 or younger in the vehicle. A further 6% think this it is okay to smoke with passengers aged four or younger.
Smokers seem to have some interesting views on why it's okay to 'light up' with children on board. More than one in ten (11%) think it's okay 'as long as the windows are open'.
One in ten reassure themselves with the belief that children are not at risk if you smoke in the vehicle they are travelling in. Interestingly, 13% admit they smoke in their home around under 18s and question why they shouldn't smoke in their vehicle.
Over one in five (22%) drivers that smoke think they should be able to do so in a private vehicle without incurring a fine — regardless of the passengers' age.
When it comes to the UK Government's decision to apply this law to passengers under 18, many drivers feel the age should be lowered. 12% think the ruling should be for passengers under 16 years old, not under 18s.
5% think it should be just for under 12 year old passengers and 4% think just applying the law to the under 5s is sufficient.
Hannah Maundrell, Editor in Chief of money.co.uk, comments:
"Smoking with passengers in a vehicle is not ideal, regardless of their age. However, given this impacts over four million children, the fact that the Government has finally acknowledged this and are attempting to protect them from the dangers of passive smoking in such a confined space is certainly a step in the right direction.
"There is also a road safety issue to consider here as smoking can be a distraction which could make drivers a higher risk for accidents - maybe something insurance underwriters end up taking into consideration.
"As almost a third of drivers smoke in their vehicles with under 18s on board, this is going to a difficult and time-consuming law to enforce - maybe completely outlawing smoking when passengers are in the vehicle would be a better way to do this.
"There are also several nuances in the law that impact 17-year-olds specifically, as they could be fined twice if they're travelling with friends of the same age who are smoking.
"To avoid the £50 fine, all drivers really need to read up on the rules on smoking in vehicles post 1st October; but this is especially true for new drivers who will already be struggling to cover the cost of driving and certainly can't afford to risk an additional fine."
Laws banning smoking in cars carrying children have been introduced in a number of jurisdictions in Canada, the United States, Australia, South Africa, Bahrain and Mauritius.³
The new rules do not cover e-cigarette use and will only apply to motor homes, campervans and caravans when they are being used as vehicles, not when they are being used as living spaces.
Notes to editors: 1. A survey of 1,000 car owners who smoke in their vehicles was carried out by OnePoll on behalf of money.co.uk from 15th - 22nd September, 2015.
2. Over 4 million children affected by adults smoking in cars:
*Total number of drivers with full licences = 38,221,465 (source: DLVA Mar 2015 at Data.gov.uk)
*20% of adults in England smoke (source: ASH Smoking statistics Jan 2015 at ash.org.uk). Assumption that 20% of drivers smoke.
*31% of drivers smoke in their cars with under 18s on board = 2,369,731
*According to the ONS (2012), the average family has 1.7 children
*2,369,731 x 1.7 = 4,028,542
305,772 drivers smoking with children under the age of four in the car
*Total number of drivers with full licences = 38,221,465 (DVLA Mar 2015 at Data.gov.uk)
*20% of adults in England smoke (source: ASH Smoking statistics Jan 2015 at ash.org.uk) Assumption that 20% of drivers smoke.
*4% of drivers in our survey smoke with children aged four or under in their vehicle. Assuming 20% of drivers smoke (7,644,293) 4% = 305,772.
3. Canadian Cancer Society, Jan. 2014