Smoking in Vehicles – the Laws

People who smoke usually take every opportunity to light up a cigarette. For example, while driving a car –  and this despite the fact that the pollution caused by tobacco smoke is significantly higher there than in living rooms –  due to the small volume of space. What do you have to bear in mind if you choose to smoke in your vehicle? 

Smoking while driving

A smoking ban in cars could also protect the smoking driver, because lighting the cigarette is a dangerous distraction from road traffic. Situations in which the cigarette falls down, and the driver reacts reflexively, are particularly precarious. Anyone who lights up a cigarette while driving is not focused on the road traffic. But smoking can not only be dangerous when lighting up. Anyone who gets into a dangerous situation and needs both hands to deal with it is only able to act to a limited extent if they are holding a cigarette. Unfortunately, it happens time and time again that serious accidents are caused by this.

Smoking in the car – illegal or not? 

Although the risks are well known, and a ban on smoking in cars has been discussed for years, smoking in cars is allowed in the UK. There is still no legal regulation because the car is considered a private space by the law. Accordingly, a smoking ban would interfere with, and restrict, the personal freedom of the individual. In other words, smoking in cars cannot be banned, and everyone can smoke as much as they want when they are behind the wheel. Whether they are alone while doing so, or exposes other people to the risks of passive smoking, is legally speaking, irrelevant.

Smoking in cars in the presence of a child

Smoking in cars with children laws

Smoking in cars in the presence of children is also particularly harmful, as they are exposed to the toxic pollutants and carcinogenic substances of tobacco smoke without any protection. Even when someone smokes just one cigarette, the concentration of tobacco smoke particles inside the vehicle will increase rapidly and reach levels similar to those in a smokers’ pub. This is also the case even if you leave the windows open. 

Nevertheless, only about two-thirds of smokers voluntarily refrain from smoking in the car if they have a minor child with them. One-third of smokers with children, on the other hand, do not generally avoid smoking in the car. It is estimated that approximately 430,000 children and adolescents in the UK are directly, or indirectly, affected by exposure to tobacco smoke in the car each week.

However, in England, smoking in the car is prohibited if a passenger is underage. If you light up anyway, you have to pay a fine of £50. In Scotland, the smoking ban applies to all persons inside the car if a passenger is under 18 years of age. A fine in the amount of £100 will have to be paid. If the case ends up in court, it could be as much as £1000.

Smoking and children – other European countries

If you are travelling in other European countries, you had better give up smoking behind the wheel. In many countries there are penalties that could seriously impact your pocketbook.

Austria: Smoking is prohibited in cars as soon as a person under the age of 18 is in the vehicle. If you smoke in the car anyway, you have to pay a fine of up to 100 € in Austria. In case of a repeat offence, a fine of up to 1,000 € is possible.

Italy: Smoking in the car could bring you a fine of up to 5,000 € in Italy, if smoking is done in the presence of pregnant women, or minors under 12.

Greece: Smoking while driving is prohibited if children under 12 are present. If you do it anyway, you can expect a fine of up to 1,500 €.

Cyprus: Smoking in the car is not allowed if passengers are under 16 years old. The fine is up to 85 €.

Similar bans also apply in individual US states, Canadian provinces, Australia and South Africa. In California, Hawaii, or Louisiana, for example, you can expect a fine of around $100 if one of your passengers is under 18 and you smoke in the car anyway. According to the German ADAC, smoking in cars will be banned in the Netherlands, Poland, and some Scandinavian countries (e.g. Denmark) in the long term. Since 01/01/2021, smoking in cars has been punished more severely in Belgium. If minors or pregnant women are present, a general smoking ban applies.

Dangers of e-cigarettes

Dangers of e-cigarettes

Smoking e-cigarettes in cars is not prohibited in cars as it is also considered less harmful to one’s health. However, e-cigarettes cause a considerable amount of smoke, which obscures the driver’s vision. If an accident then occurs, the driver is charged with contributory negligence, which can be assessed as gross negligence and then fined accordingly.

Reason to abstain while driving

Smoking in the car is not only harmful to your and your passengers’ health, it can also lead to accidents. In addition, despite an open window, the smell settles in the upholstery and is very difficult to get rid of once there. You can avoid this by refraining from smoking while driving.

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