What England won't let you do in your car anymore

England will ban smoking in a car if passengers are under the age of 18. Are they the only ones with such a law?

REUTERS/Phil Noble
A man digs his car out of the snow near Shaw, northern England January 22, 2015.

England has joined the ranks in fighting the dangers of secondhand smoke.

On Oct. 1, drivers in England will be banned from smoking in their cars if their passengers are under the age of 18. Offenders will be fined £50, according to the BBC. The rule will not apply to those who are either driving alone or in a convertible with the top down.

The British Lung Foundation found that 430,000 children between the ages of 11 and 15 are exposed to secondhand smoke in a car at least once a week. They also found that secondhand smoke in general can be difficult to detect, with more than 80 percent of it being scentless and invisible. With the ability to linger for more than five hours from one cigarette, enclosed spaces such as vehicles pose an even greater risk.

Dr. Penny Woods, the chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, described the law as a “tremendous victory.” She also encourages the government to keep momentum and address other areas of concerns when it comes to children and their perception of smoking.

"We urge the Government to show the same commitment to introduce standardised packaging for all tobacco products, in order to protect the 200,000 children taking up smoking every year in this country,” Dr. Woods said, reported the BBC. "We are certain that these measures together will prove to be two of the most significant milestones for public health since the smoke-free legislation of 2007."

England is not the only country to place bans on smoking in vehicles occupied by children. Wales has a ban. Scotland has considered introducing the ban, and parts of Canada, Australia, South Africa, and Europe have variations of the ban. In the United States, Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Puerto Rico have bans on smoking when riding with children. While the ages vary in every state, this ban ranges from smoking with anyone from under the age of 18 (California and Oregon) to under 13 (Louisiana).

Earlier this year, state Sen. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth, Fla., proposed a bill making it illegal to smoke in the car with children under the age of 13 in Florida. The bill has already received mixed reviews, questioning the state’s authority to mandate such behavior.

"Government has a long history of overstepping their boundaries.This is just another example," said Benjamin Jones, a smoker, reported CBS 3 Springfield.

Kathryn Templeton, a parent, said her 14-year-old son is around his stepfather a lot while he smokes. Her son told her that it doesn’t really bother him, even though she worries about secondhand smoke. She feels that rather than passing a law, perhaps there is a greater need to educate people rather than regulate their behavior.

"Just kind of give them a head's up, you know, think about what you're doing," said Ms. Templeton, reported CBS 3 Springfield.

Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, a lobbyist group that pursues action-oriented program towards policy and legislation, agrees that the public needs more than a law. Their website states:

“Because a law, by itself, is unlikely to eliminate secondhand smoke exposure in cars, we recommend that any smoke-free car campaign be accompanied by a strong education effort, stressing the health hazards of smoke-filled vehicles. Campaigns for smoke-free car laws can serve as a tool to educate the public about the health hazards of secondhand smoke exposure and improve decision making about smoking in ways that harm other people.”

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