E-cigarettes make car smoke ban difficult to enforce warns Motoring Law specialist

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The growing popularity of electronic cigarettes will make new regulations which ban smoking in cars carrying children “very difficult” for police to enforce, a motoring law specialist has warned.

Tim Williamson of law firm Blake Morgan says enforcement officers will find it challenging to tell apart motorists who are using e-cigarettes apart from those who are smoking tobacco.

The new regulations come into effect on October 1 and give police the authority to pull over any road vehicle carrying children if the driver or anyone else is smoking inside. But the new laws do not apply to motorists who are “vaping” electronic cigarettes.

Tim, a criminal and regulatory lawyer, said: “I am concerned that these new regulations will be very difficult to enforce. Unless officers catch people red-handed it will be impossible for the offence to be proved.

“As more and more people turn to vaping, I would envisage many motorists being pulled over at the side of the road only for the person concerned to be using an e-cigarette rather than tobacco.

“I would foresee police experiencing similar difficulties to those they face in attempting to enforce the ban on drivers using mobile phones at the wheel.

“We have successfully defended many drivers charged with this offence when they have been prosecuted on the evidence of an honest but mistaken eyewitness.

“We may find that proving someone has been smoking at the wheel will prove to be an extremely difficult task.”

The Smoke-Free (Private Vehicles) Regulations 2015 make it an offence to smoke in any enclosed that is carrying people aged under 18.

Police have the option to grant a warning, issue a fixed penalty or refer the case to court. Anyone who does not accept the offer of a fixed penalty will have to challenge the case in court.

In cases where the smoker is a passenger, the driver of the car is still liable – and both face having to pay the penalty. Drivers aged 17 who smoke while alone in a vehicle are not liable.

The legislation applies to all enclosed vehicles including caravans and motor homes while they are used for travelling. Convertibles are excepted if the top is properly stowed away.

Tim added:

It’s clear that health concerns are the driving force behind the change in the law and there will plainly be benefits to health if fewer people smoke.

Drivers must make sure they are aware of the new regulations and the reasons for it and remember that using any kind of cigarette while driving can be a distraction.

“With that in mind, even though there are enforcement difficulties and the ban does not apply to electronic cigarettes, we would advise drivers not to smoke and drive – and not to vape and drive either.”