The Flemish parliament yesterday approved a proposal to ban smoking in cars in the presence of children. The proposal was passed unanimously. Smoking is already banned in public buildings on a national level – a ban that was later extended first to restaurants and later to bars. The ban also covers places of entertainment and public transport.
The measure to ban smoking in cars where children are present, however, extends only to the Flemish region, and carries a fine of up to €1,000. The problem, however, will be one of detection. Smoking in cars by itself is not against the law, so drivers and other passengers will have to be caught in flagrante for any prosecution to succeed.
The law was introduced by Flemish environment minister Joke Schauvliege and health minister Jo Vandeurzen after calls for a ban at national level failed to achieve a result. The ban covers any occupant of a car smoking in the presence of any child under the age of 16. It also covers the use of electronic cigarettes.
The party of both ministers, CD&V, intends to continue pressing the federal government to introduce a law in line with the Flemish law on this matter.
Smoking in cars where children are present is illegal in the UK, where the age of the minor is under 18. Fines of up to £50 can be levied against the person smoking and the driver, whether he or she was smoking or not. It is also illegal in Ireland, but electronic cigarettes are not covered by the ban. In France a ban covers the under-12s. Bans are currently being considered by legislatures in other EU countries.