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Law banning smoking in cars with minors enters into force

Under the new law passengers caught smoking with anyone under the age of 18 will subject both themselves and the car driver to separate fines

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
1 January 2017, 12:02pm
A new law making it illegal to smoke in a car with anyone under the age of 18 will come into force today.

The law, aimed at protecting children from second-hand smoke, was announced in last year’s Budget speech.

Motorists will have to suppress their urge to smoke any kind of tobacco – including electronic cigarettes – until they arrive at their destination, if they want to avoid a €50 fine.

The ban applies to all tobacco products including e-cigarettes.

It also enjoys the support of the Tobacco Industry Advisory Council (TIAC), and health minister Chris Fearne has rejected concerns that the government was interfering in people’s private lives.

“The laws allow the authorities to intervene in people’s private lives in matters where public health is concerned,” he told MaltaToday earlier this year. “The aim of this ban is to safeguard the public health of minors.”

In Malta smoking was already restricted in all enclosed public spaces in April 2004. Malta was one of the first EU states to ban smoking in bars and restaurants.

The government says the ban will improve the health of minors whose parents smoke at home, citing studies from Canada where a similar ban reduced the prevalence of smoking inside cars but also did not increase the prevalence of smoking at home.

Under the new law, which kicked in today, passengers caught smoking will subject both themselves and the car driver to separate fines. An awareness campaign dubbed ‘You Smoke They Smoke’, has already been doing the rounds, and police officers and wardens have undergone training to apprehend abusive smokers.

The €50 fine for those caught red-handed is nowhere near the fines slapped abroad for similar breaches.

In Scotland, smokers’ rights campaigners were up in arms against a £1,000 fine for smoking in cars with minors. The law there was pushed in a private member’s bill by Liberal Democrat MP Jim Hume, whose mother died of cancer caused by second-hand smoke.

A similar law came into force in England and Wales in 2015, although there have been difficulties over enforcing the ban.

‘Extremely damaging’

Research shows that second-hand smoke can cause serious conditions including bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma.

“Children are at particular risk from the effects of passive smoking because they have an increased risk of developing chest infections during their first five years,” Dr Charmaine Gauci, the superintendent of public health says.

“Babies who are exposed to cigarette smoke are also at a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death. As well as making children more vulnerable to ear infections, such as otitis media, passive smoking makes children more likely to develop asthma.”

Several countries have legislated banning of smoking in public places but smoking in cars has been given particular attention as levels of second hand smoke in cars can be extremely high.

“Research from Canada showed that the car’s confined spaces are particularly dangerous in presence of smoking because second hand smoke caused by smoking reach a toxic level quickly, even if one attempts to open the windows or operate the ventilation system,” Dr Gauci said.

“Other studies in Canada highlighted that a single cigarette smoked in a stationary car with its windows closed can produce a level of secondhand smoke 11 times higher than the level found in an average bar where smoking is permitted. In a moving car, the level of secondhand smoke produced by a single cigarette can be as high as 7 times the average level of a smoky bar. Researchers noted that in the condition with the least airflow (motionless car, window closed) levels of fine respirable particles (known as PM2.5) were over 100 times greater than the US Environmental Protection Agency’s 24-hour standard for fine particle exposure and 15 times the EPA’s ‘hazardous’ rating.”

The levels of toxins from smoking in cars can reach high counts very quickly. Second-hand smoke consists of a mixture of gases and fine particles that is either emitted from a burning cigarette, cigar, or pipe, or exhaled by smokers. In all, second-hand smoke contains at least 250 toxic chemicals, including more than 50 carcinogens.

“Second hand smoke exposure is particularly harmful for children because they have smaller lungs and weaker immune system. Children are a vulnerable group who cannot decide for themselves and dependent on the actions of their caregivers,” Dr Gauci said.

Where is smoking in cars with minors illegal?

Australia

In the Australian Capital Territory, a smoking ban in cars with minors under the age of 16 has existed since May 2012. An on the spot fine of AUD $250 is applicable, or court fines up to AUD $5,500. Similar bans are in place in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory.

Bahrain and UAE

Since 13 April, 2009, smoking in cars with accompanying children is banned in Bahrain. In the UAE it is banned in the presence of children under 12.

Canada

Smoking with anyone under the age of 16 present in a vehicle is currently banned in the Provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and Yukon Territory. Smoking is banned in vehicles with persons under the age of 19 present in Nova Scotia.

Cyprus

Smoking in vehicles with minors under the age of 16 is prohibited.

France

It is forbidden to smoke in private vehicles in the presence of children under the age of 12 since 2015.

Ireland

Ban on smoking in cars in the presence of minors (under 18), which came into force exactly a year ago. The offence carries a fixed penalty of €100 with the option of tougher penalties of up to €1,000 for failing to stop or providing inaccurate details.

South Africa

A law prohibiting smoking in private vehicles with minors under the age of 12 has been voted.

United Kingdom

On 1 October, 2015, smoking in vehicles with passengers under 18 was banned in England and Wales, except in convertibles. It is also illegal for drivers under the age of 18 to allow other passengers to smoke in their car, regardless of their age – however drivers under the age of 18 will be permitted to smoke in their car as long as no passengers are present. It is a criminal offence for any driver to fail to stop a passenger illegally smoking in the car while a passenger under the age of 18 is present.

United States

A smoking ban in cars with children is being tested in several states. It is banned in certain counties and cities of Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, New Jersey, New York, Kentucky, and Alabama.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is editor MaltaToday.com.mt and MaltaToday on Sunday.

He joined Mediat...
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