Smoking ban leaves police cars exempt

PUBS and clubs will be off-limits, but smokers will have one refuge: the back of a police car.

In another bizarre exception to Scotland's smoking legislation, The Scotsman has learned that police vehicles will not be designated as public places and, therefore, will be exempt. Driving instructors who use their own cars will also be allowed to smoke in front of students.

The revelations are expected to add to mounting confusion over the Scottish Executive bar on smoking in enclosed public places from 26 March.

Earlier this week, The Scotsman exposed a string of apparent anomalies in the legislation. While smoking will be banned indoors on Caledonian Mac-Brayne ferries to the islands, it will be allowed on the Rosyth to Zeebrugge ferry; while company cars will be exempt, vans and tractors will not be.

Many police forces, such as Lothian and Borders and Strathclyde, operate no-smoking policies for their vehicles. However, it is understood that, on occasions, officers will allow members of the public, such as informants, to smoke in patrol cars.

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland said police vehicles - like interview rooms in stations - were exempt from the ban because they were not classed as public places.

The loophole enabling driving instructors to continue smoking was attacked by anti-smoking groups, which said their vehicles should be classed as public places. It has arisen because most cars used by driving instructors are classed as private vehicles rather than commercial vehicles or public transport.

Only those instructors who do not have access to the vehicles for private use are understood to be covered by the ban.

One of the main groups representing instructors has admitted that some instructors do smoke while supervising pupils, but it opposes including them in the ban.

An Edinburgh-based instructor said the number of instructors who smoked while taking lessons was greater than some people might think.

"It is unfair on the pupil, especially if the instructor opens a window to let out the smoke, which causes noise and draught," he said.

Peter Harvey, the chairman of the Motors Schools Association, which represents half of Scotland's 2,000 instructors, said it expected members not to smoke when instructing pupils. However, he was against a ban.

Mr Harvey said: "As driving instructors, we should not be smoking when there is another person in the car, but I would expect them to be sensible enough to adopt the ban themselves."

ASH Scotland, which campaigns against smoking, said the law should be changed. Maureen Moore, its chief executive, said: "Driving instructors' cars should not be exempt from the ban. When they are used for driving instruction, they become a public place and a place of work, and should be smoke free.

"The police are covered by special regulations enabling them to do their job. They are being given some leeway, which is just one of those things."

The Executive said taxis were the only cars covered by the smoke-free legislation because they were classed as public transport. A spokeswoman said: "Driving instructors' cars are classed as private vehicles and are therefore exempt. However, we know that many companies currently operate smoke-free policies, irrespective of the law."

She said the legislation stated that vehicles which one or more persons used for work were included in schedule one of the regulations, as "no-smoking premises". However, under schedule two, there is an exemption for private vehicles.

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