A new law banning Scots from smoking in cars with children in came into force this week, and that’s been welcomed by the ex-MSP who proposed it, former Borders councillor Jim Hume.
Anyone caught lighting up in a private vehicle with someone under 18 on board now faces an on-the-spot penalty of £100 or a fine of up to £1,000 if the case goes to court.
Smokers’ group Forest has branded the new law “patronising and unnecessary”, but ministers and health campaigners say it will protect children.
The bill now made law was introduced to the Scottish Parliament by Jim Hume, a Liberal Democrat list MSP for the south of Scotland from 2007 until March this year.
Mr Hume, also a Scottish Borders Council member for Galashiels from 2007 to 2012, said: “It fills me with great pride that, through hard work and cross-party consensus, we are now seeing the introduction of a law which can potentially save 60,000 children a year from the hazards of second-hand smoke.
“Thanks to all those in support of this measure, we have taken a huge step in the right direction to having a healthier Scotland for all.”
Mr Hume’s fight to see the new law passed was partly inspired by the death of his mother Joyce, a non-smoker, from lung cancer five years ago.
The former farmer’s smoking prohibition (children in motor vehicles) (Scotland) bill was passed unanimously by MSPs almost a year ago in a bid to protect young people from second-hand smoke and the health conditions it can cause, such as bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma.
The Scottish Government says the new law is part of its plans to create a tobacco-free generation by 2034, defined as cutting the percentage of Scots smoking from the current 20% to less than 5%.
Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: “Our target to reduce the proportion of children exposed in the home from 12% to 6% by 2020 has been met five years early.
“The ban on smoking in cars will help to build on that success by reinforcing the message that the toxic fumes from cigarette smoke are harmful, particularly to children.”
Steve Turner, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s officer for Scotland, said: “Today is a significant step forward in the protection of children against second-hand smoke.
“With the Scottish Government enacting this law, children are now better protected from the threat of asthma, ear infections and sudden infant death.”
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of anti-smoking charity Ash Scotland, said: “Similar laws are fast becoming the norm around the world, from Australia and Canada to the United States, France and Ireland. Scotland’s children deserve the same protection.”
Other campaigners have criticised the new law, though.
Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, said: “The regulations are patronising and unnecessary.
“Very few adults smoke in cars with children.
“Smokers know it’s inconsiderate, and the overwhelming majority don’t do it.”
A law banning smoking in vehicles carrying children came into force in England and Wales in October last year.
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of anti-smoking charity Ash Scotland, said the move sends a clear message that children should grow up in a smoke-free environment.
She said: “The most recent data shows that about one in six 15-year-olds are sometimes or often exposed to second-hand smoke in the car.
“When we know that just one cigarette can quickly lead to harmful levels of smoke, we have to take action. This is about protecting children’s health.
“Similar laws are fast becoming the norm around the world, from Australia and Canada to the United States, France and Ireland. Scotland’s children deserve the same protection.”
“So few people smoke when there’s a child in the car it will be like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
He added: “The law is a classic example of virtue signalling. It’s utterly pointless and a complete waste of time and resources that could be better spent elsewhere.”