DRIVERS face a ban on smoking in their own car if a child is present under Scottish Government reforms of anti-smoking legislation.
A shake-up of the laws surrounding tobacco and electronic cigarettes is being considered by Holyrood ministers, who have also proposed a ban on selling e-cigarettes to under 18s.
The paper, which will be put out to consultation with the public and a range of organisations, will also ask whether local authorities should be able to set up smoke-free zones around outdoor children’s playparks to protect children from second-hand smoke.
Health campaigners welcomed the proposals, which they said would contribute towards stamping out smoking for the new generation.
Under the new rules, buying e-cigarettes – which currently have no legal age limit north of the Border – would also be considered an offence if it was believed an adult was buying the product for a minor.
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of anti-smoking charity Ash Scotland, said: “We are delighted the Scottish Government is exploring further measures to tackle the harm caused by smoking as we move towards our goal of a tobacco-free Scotland.”
The consultation will also look at restrictions on advertising of e-cigarettes, including billboards, point of sale and events sponsorship.
However, Ash Scotland said it would not support a ban on using e-cigarettes in enclosed public places where tobacco smoking is already banned.
The document said it would “welcome views” on the topic, but added that the Scottish Government “remains open-minded” about what, if any, intervention is necessary on the use of e-cigarettes in indoor spaces.
The product has been credited with helping many people stop smoking, although critics believe the full health implications are not yet known.
Ms Duffy added: “A legislative ban on using e-cigarettes in enclosed public spaces would require clear scientific consensus that significant harm from ‘second-hand’ e-cigarette emissions is likely. This is not the situation to date, so we don’t consider a blanket legislative ban is appropriate at this time.”
Under the new European Tobacco Products Directive, due to be implemented across the UK by May 2016, e-cigarettes that do not voluntarily seek a medicines licence will continue to be regulated as consumer products but with a range of additional safeguards such as a limitation on the nicotine content and restrictions on advertising and promotion with a cross-border impact.
The Scottish Government consultation document said up to 60,000 children across Scotland may be exposed to second-hand smoke while in a vehicle every week.
“When someone smokes in a car, the harmful chemicals in second-hand smoke reach dangerously high levels very quickly,” the report said. “Exposure to second-hand smoke in cars is harmful to all occupants, but especially to children because they breathe faster than adults, have smaller airways and their immune systems are not fully developed.”
Dr Andrew Thomson, member of the BMA’s Scottish Council, said: “Electronic cigarettes have become increasingly popular since mid-2000, yet further research is needed to learn more about the long-term effects and uncover whether they are an effective and safe way of reducing tobacco harm.”
Michael Matheson, the minister for public health, said: “Electronic cigarettes are relatively new, and there is very little regulation of their sale and use.
“This consultation is the first step towards proper regulation of the devices in Scotland.”