Yesterday saw the publication in the official government journal, the Moniteur Belge, of the law making it an offence to smoke in the presence of a young person aged 16 and under, on pain of a fine of up to 1,000 euros. The law actually comes into force on 18 August.
The law was introduced to protect principally the children of smokers, who are considered the main victims of passive smoking, since they are constantly exposed at home, and unlike other victims of second-hand smoke, have no opportunity to move out of the danger zone.
The federal public health ministry has made it clear they will be deploying inspectors from the beginning of September in the vicinity of primary schools, pre-schools and crèches, on the look-out for parents who are smoking in the car while taking their children – and even the children of non-smoking parents – to school.
The inspectors have no authority to intervene while drivers are behind the wheel; that will be up to police present, Paul Van den Meerssche, director of the tobacco and alcohol unit of the ministry, told Belga news agency. They already have the power to pull a driver over, and can issue a fine on the spot. The inspectors will, he said, have no problem discussing the age of the children concerned, because of the locations chosen.
However Van den Meerssche said the early weeks of the law will be devoted to raising awareness of the new situation, with fines following only in a later phase.
The new law will change nothing in Flanders, where the regional government introduced a similar ban on smoking in the presence of minors, with the unanimous support of the Flemish parliament, in December 2018.