England

Car smoking ban 'not being enforced' in South East

Woman smoking in car (generic)
Image caption The ban on smoking in cars with children present became law in England on 1 October

Drivers in the South East are escaping penalties under a new law banning smoking in cars with children present.

None was stopped, cautioned, fined or arrested in the ban's first three months, Freedom of Information figures from Surrey and Sussex Police show.

Kent Police said it was following guidance that only warnings should be issued but did not have records to show what had been done.

Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) said the law should be enforced.

'Insufficient police'

The ban, which was introduced on 1 October in England, followed a similar law in Wales and aims to protect young people under 18 travelling in cars from second-hand smoke.

Anyone found flouting the law could face an on-the-spot fine of £50.

Motoring organisation the RAC said it was not surprised drivers had not been penalised.

"This isn't a debate about the law itself - it's about the ability of our police forces to actually enforce some of these new motoring laws when their officer numbers are down 23%," said spokesman Pete Williams.

"UK traffic officer numbers have fallen from over 5,500 thousand to 4,350.

"There just aren't sufficient officers to enforce laws like undertaking and middle-lane hogging."

Image caption Ash spokeswoman Amanda Sandford said the law should be enforced to protect public health

Sussex Police said the legislation was still only a few months old and police had been advised by the Department of Health to take a non-confrontational and educational approach while members of the public became more aware of it.

"Should a police officer come across it I am confident that they will deal with it as they see fit in the circumstances," said Chief Insp Phil Nicholas.

Surrey Police declined to comment.

Ash spokeswoman Amanda Sandford said the law was there for a good reason.

"It is there to protect public health and if they are not enforcing it I think they should be," she said.

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