MSPs pass ban on smoking in cars when children are present

A BAN on smoking in cars when children are present is to come into force in Scotland early next year after MSPs unanimously voted the law through its final parliamentary stage.

Smoking in cars with children has been banned. Picture posed by models. Picture: John Devlin

Motorists caught smoking in vehicles with passengers under 18 will face a fine of £100 under the new legislation, which will become law in the first few weeks of 2016.

Ministers faced calls to extend the restrictions to a ban on smoking in tenement closes and stairwells, as some MSPs compared the bill to the groundbreaking legislation that outlawed smoking in bars, restaurants and hotels in 2006.

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However, smokers’ rights group Forest, warned the “next logical step” was to outlaw smoking in the home as well as introducing a blanket ban on it in all cars.

The group attacked Holyrood’s decision, which was backed by the Scottish Government and the British Medical Association, as “extremely heavy-handed” and “another attack on smokers”.

Liberal Democrat MSP Jim Hume, who introduced the bill, said 60,000 children in Scotland are exposed to tobacco fumes every week in cars in Scotland as he said the law change would give young Scots a healthier start to life.

Mr Hume said the legislation would “protect the vulnerable” as he dedicated the bill to his mother Joyce Hume, a non-smoker, who he said died five years ago from lung cancer brought on from inhaling second-hand smoke.

He told MSPs that the Smoking Prohibition (Children in Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Bill had been amended so that the responsibility for enforcement would be shared between police and local authority environmental health officers.

Mr Hume went on to make a plea to parliament to pass the ban, which he said would “protect the vulnerable from the toxic fumes of second-hand smoke in a very enclosed space”.

He said: “It will give children in Scotland a better start in life, knowing that this aspect of their health is legally protected in such an enclosed space.

“We are now faced with the decision of whether to take the last step into passing this bill, which will see at least 60,000 children a week in Scotland benefiting from better health.”

The vote at Holyrood yesterday will bring Scotland into line with England and Wales, where a law came into force in October, banning smoking in vehicles carrying children, with those who break the law facing a penalty fine of £50.

Labour MSP Jenny Marra said she believed Mr Hume’s bill will create a culture change and be compared to the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces, which was aimed at reducing passive smoking, or exposure to second-hand smoke.

Ms Marra, speaking about her own experience of being exposed to tobacco fumes, said: “When I think back to jobs that I have had in bars, exposed for hours on end to a thick fug of smoke when I was a student 20 years ago, and the stench of that smoke on my hair and clothes when I finished my shift – these are conditions that we simply would not tolerate now.

“It was the smoking in public places ban that created the tipping point for this behaviour. Bold, brave legislation that was initially branded as crazy, but when it was enacted, people changed and complied with it overnight, because they knew deep down that it was the right thing to do and that it made sense.

“And this is exactly what I expect to happen with this bill today.”

Public health minister Maureen Watt said the Scottish Government will continue to consider other ways to make sure children are not subjected to second-hand smoke.

She added: “This is about promoting a change in cultures and attitudes.”

The Scottish Conservatives backed the bill, but an attempt by the party’s health spokesman Jackson Carlaw to make the legislation subject to a “sunset clause” where it would have to be reviewed was defeated.

However, Simon Clark, director of smokers’ group Forest, said the ban on smoking in cars where children are present would eventually lead to a blanket ban on all vehicles as well as being extended to the home.

Mr Clark also claimed that Police Scotland would not have the resources to enforce the new legislation.

He said: “Our fear is that the next logical step is to ban smoking in the home. We’re also concerned that it will lead to smoking being banned in all cars because of a lack of resources.”

Mr Clark added: “Our reaction has always been that we don’t condone smoking in cars with children present.

“It’s inconsiderate at the very least.”

“But we think this ban is excessive and extremely heavy-handed as most smokers are parents and wouldn’t dream of doing this.”

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Bernie Higgins said: “Like all legislation my officers will enforce it in appropriate ­circumstances.”