Drivers who smoke or fail to prevent passengers from smoking in their cars when a child is present could face staggering fines of up to £10,000, under new proposals announced by Government.
The plans, put forward in a new consultation, would see on-the-spot fixed penalty notices of £50 issued for first-time offences, though should the matter reach court, drivers could face potentially ruinous five-figure penalties.
This is in contrast to the smoking passengers themselves, who would face a maximum fine of £800 for lighting up in a car carrying kids.
“Cars are small tin boxes where concentrations of tobacco smoke can reach dangerous levels very quickly.”
The proposals have proved controversial. Health campaigners claim that it would save lives by preventing vulnerable passengers from being exposed to toxic second- and third-hand cigarette smoke, and have urged the Government to enact new legislation before the next general election.
However, those opposed to the plans include Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who warned that the proposed legislation was unenforceable and illiberal.
Conservative veteran Ken Clarke also voiced his dissent, telling the Daily Mail: “I don’t think our traffic police are going to be concentrating enormous efforts on racing up and down the motorway peering into cars, trying to see whether there’s a child. We’ll probably find two or three people fined a year.”
The consultation paper has also been blasted for potentially landing drivers, or even simply owners of a vehicle, liable for other people smoking, unless they can show they took reasonable steps to prevent it.
Chief executive of smoking charity ASH, Deborah Arnott, said: “Cars are small tin boxes where concentrations of tobacco smoke can reach dangerous levels very quickly,” reported the Daily Mail.
“The time has come for it to be illegal to make children breathe in these toxic fumes.”
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