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Welsh vote on smoking in cars ban

A vote on banning smoking in cars where children are present is to take place in the Welsh Assembly today.

If passed, the new law would come into effect in four months time and make it illegal for anyone to light up a cigarette in a vehicle carrying someone under the age 18.

Welsh Government officials say the police will enforce the regulations "in conjunction with their wider road safety duties" and breaking them could result in a £50 fine or even a court appearance.

Wales' health minister Mark Drakeford said he hoped AMs would pass the new legislation as it would protect more youngsters from second-hand smoke.

He said: "Some people believe that opening the window of a car will help disperse smoke but in reality it simply blows back in. It causes a real and substantial threat to children's health.

"Children cannot escape from the toxic chemicals contained in second-hand smoke when travelling in cars. They often don't have a choice over whether or not they travel in cars and may not feel able to ask an adult to stop smoking.

"If passed by AMs today, the regulations will introduce a ban to protect children under 18 from the harms associated with second-hand smoke when travelling in private vehicles.

"As with the existing smoke-free regulations, success will not be based on the number of enforcement actions that are taken but by how behaviour, attitudes and health outcomes change over time."

Legislation banning smoking in enclosed public places was introduced in Wales in 2007. The law covered public and work vehicles but did not extend to private vehicles.

The new regulations, which AMs will vote on this evening, will make it an offence to smoke in an enclosed private vehicle when more than one person is present, at least one of whom is under the age of 18, and for a driver to fail to prevent smoking in such circumstances.

The Labour-controlled Welsh Government believes legislation is necessary after its public health campaign Fresh Start Wales failed to produce the results officials had hoped.

A spokesman said: "Results of research carried out during the campaign show the number of children exposed to second-hand smoke in cars decreased; but regrettably they also show there remains a cohort of adults who continue to smoke in vehicles when children are present with 17% of children from poorer families more likely to report that smoking was allowed in their car, compared to 7% of those from more affluent families."

Ministers added that plans to introduce a ban were backed during a public consultation.

Among those also in favour were several health groups, including The British Lung Foundation.

A spokesman described the plans as "a tremendous victory for the thousands of children being exposed to second-hand smoke every week".

However, pro-smoking group Forest branded the proposals "heavy handed".

A spokesman said: "The overwhelming majority of smokers know that smoking in cars is inconsiderate and don't do it. Education has to be better than legislation but the government prefers gesture politics and the big stick."

For the new law to be approved, half of the AMs in the Siambr will have to vote in its favour.

If passed, the ban would come into effect on October 1, the same day similar measures are being implemented in England.


From Belfast Telegraph