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Kids strapped in for second hand smoke

Kids still strapped in for second hand smoke as Direct Line Motor Insurance releases findings that eight in ten (83 per cent) drivers who smoke, admit to illegally lighting up with children in the car.

• 83 per cent of drivers who smoke do so with children in the car, with nearly a quarter (24 per cent) unaware they are breaking the law
• Just 17 per cent of motorists are aware of the serious penalties imposed for careless driving due to smoking or vaping
• 81 per cent of drivers who vape do so with children in the car, however three quarters (73 per cent) of all motorists this should also be illegal

Eight in ten (83 per cent) drivers who smoke, admit to illegally lighting up with children in the car, reveals new research1 from Direct Line Motor Insurance. It has been illegal to smoke in a vehicle with someone under 18 since 20152, yet nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of UK motorists are unaware of the change in law. If caught, both the driver and smoker are liable for a £50 fine. Passive smoking is especially harmful to children and young people as they have less well-developed airways, lungs, and immune systems.

The research also found that just 17 per cent of motorists are aware of the penalties for careless driving due to smoking or vaping3. The police can issue motorists with fixed penalty notices for careless driving if they believe that a driver failed to properly control their vehicle because they were smoking or vaping. In the most serious cases, drivers could face an unlimited fine, up to nine penalty points or a driving ban4.

Overall, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of drivers smoke in the car and a similar proportion (24 per cent) use e-cigarettes. Of the e-cigarette users, 81 per cent admit to vaping when in the car with children. Vaping in cars with children is currently legal however 76 per cent of drivers are either unsure where the law stands on the matter or believe that it is illegal. There is broad support for a ban on vaping in cars when children are present with three quarters (73 per cent) of motorists stating that it should be illegal.

The government have recently announced a review into ‘youth vaping’ in an effort to reduce the number of children accessing and using vape products5. The liquid and vapour in e-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, albeit at a lower level6. Health professionals recommend avoiding vaping around pregnant women, babies and children7.

Lorraine Price, Head of Motor Insurance at Direct Line, comments: “A large percentage of motorists are unaware that smoking in a car with children is illegal, with 83 per cent of those who do smoke admitting that they have done so. Many are also unclear when it comes to where the law stands on vaping in cars and whilst it is currently legal, a significant majority of drivers believe it should be banned. Clearly, more guidance is needed to ensure that motorists are aware of the law and the potential fines involved, particularly if smoking or vaping is causing them to drive carelessly.”


1. Opinium survey of 2000 UK drivers, conducted 26th May – 1st June 2023
2. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/smoking-in-vehicles – The law does not apply to 17-year-old drivers who are alone in the car or drivers of a convertible car with the roof completely down.
3. https://www.highwaycodeuk.co.uk/general-rules-techniques-and-advice-for-all-drivers-and-riders-general-advice.html
4. https://www.highwaycodeuk.co.uk/penalty-table.html
5. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/youth-vaping-call-for-evidence
6. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/using-e-cigarettes-to-stop-smoking/
7. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/passive-smoking-protect-your-family-and-friends/

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