Motorists who smoke while at the wheel and have a child present could face a fine of up to £10,000 under new Government proposals.
A fixed penalty charge of £50 will be dished out for the offence of smoking in a smoke-free vehicle, including one carrying a child, and for failing to to prevent smoking in such a vehicle.
According to The Times, if the offence reaches court the £50 penalty for failing to prevent smoking could jump to an eye-watering £10,000 while 'just' smoking in the car would carry a maximum fine of £800.
According to the newspaper, public health minister Jane Ellison said: "Protecting and improving children's health is a priority and this is just one measure we plan to introduce to help achieve that goal.
"The only effective way to protect children from second-hand smoke is to prevent them breathing it in the first place. Exposure to second-hand smoke is a serious health hazard, especially to children and a significant number of children say that they are exposed to second-hand smoke in a private vehicle."
Penny Woods, British Lung Foundation chief executive, told The Times: "We are now closer than ever to the introduction of a law that would help prevent hundreds of thousands of children from being exposed to second-hand smoke in a car. We expect this consultation will confirm all the details before a ban is finally introduced in a year."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the consultation proposals have proved controversial. When an amended bill appeared last February giving the health secretary powers to implement a ban, one opposer was deputy prime minister Nick Clegg who believed the legislation would not work.
"I'm quite an old-fashioned liberal and I don't think we should legislate unless it's going to work," he said at the time, according to The Times.
Veteran Tory Ken Clarke told the Daily Mail: "I don't think our traffic police are going to be concentrating enormous efforts on racing up and down the motorway peering into cars, trying to see whether there's a child. We'll probably find two or three people fined a year."
News of the proposals follows an announcement yesterday that a ban on people smoking in private vehicles when children are present will be introduced in Wales.
First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "While I welcome the fact the number of children being exposed to smoking in cars has declined, a sizeable minority of young people are still being exposed and adults continue to smoke in their cars when children are present."
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