Smoking laws in cars: what to know

July 12, 2022 by

Sometimes it’s illegal to smoke in a car, and sometimes it’s not – we explain all

Back in the 1960s, around 70% of men and 40% of women smoked. And while the 13.5% of UK adults who smoke today may represent a sea change in attitudinal change, smoking remains a habit that shows no signs of being completely extinguished.

Something that has changed, along with the popularity of smoking, are the laws to do with smoking in cars. New laws were introduced in 2015 specifically targeting smoking in cars, while wider legislation introduced in 2007 affected smoking in vehicles used for work. Read on for all the details.

Is it legal to smoke and drive?

If you are in your own car and any passengers you may have are 18 or over, it is perfectly legal to smoke in a car – but you should not allow the act of smoking to distract you from the task of driving.

Rule 148 of the Highway Code says you should “avoid distractions” when driving, with smoking listed as an example of a distraction.

This is not the same as smoking in a car being banned, however, only a requirement that if you are smoking, it does not distract you from driving.

If you are involved in a collision and it is determined that smoking caused you to be distracted, you could be charged with careless driving, but eating or drinking, listening to loud music, or arguing with a passenger could also bring this charge.

If a police officer determines that smoking caused your driving to be careless, you could receive a fixed penalty of a £100 fine, and three points on your licence.

What if children are in the car?

It is illegal to smoke in a car if any passengers are under the age of 18. This came about as a result of the Children and Families Act 2014, which requires: “a private vehicle to be smoke-free where a person under the age of 18 is present in the vehicle.”

The only exceptions to this are:

  • If the car is a convertible and the roof is fully down
  • If the driver is 17 years old and in their own car

If you are caught smoking in a car with under 18s in it, you face a fine of £50.

The law only applies to cigarettes: it is legal to vape/smoke e-cigarettes in a car with children in it.

Is it legal to smoke in a work car?

Smoking was banned in UK pubs and workplaces in 2007, and this legislation also applies to work vehicles. This means that if you have a company car, van, taxi, lorry, bus, or any other vehicle “that more than one person uses”, it is illegal to smoke in it. Do so and your employer can be fined up to £2,500. You can smoke in a company car if you are the only one who uses it, although this would have to be agreed with your employer.

Can passengers smoke in the car?

Assuming there are no occupants in the car who are under 18, and it is not a work vehicle, it is legal for passengers to smoke in it. They must not distract the driver, though.

Laws on smoking in a car FAQs

Here, we answer some of the common questions on this topic.

Can you smoke in a leased car?

Assuming it is a personal and not a work lease, you should be allowed to smoke in a car that is on a PCP, PCH or some other kind of finance deal – although check your contract or speak to the finance company to be sure. Do note that most lease deals have a “fair wear and tear” clause in them; if cigarette odour gets into the car’s fabric and elsewhere, you may find yourself liable for extra charges.

Can you smoke in a rental car?

No. Rental companies all have clauses in their contracts prohibiting smoking.

Can you vape and drive?

Yes: as set out above, it is legal to smoke in your car, even if there are under 18s in it. Do bear in mind you can still face a careless or even dangerous driving charge if vaping distracts you from driving.

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