The Government has today announced it will prohibit smoking in cars carrying children under 18 years of age, says Associate Minister of Health Jenny Salesa.
The law change will come into effect by an amendment to the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990.
“First and foremost this change is about protecting children. However, it is also part of the Government’s commitment to achieving Smokefree 2025,” says Jenny.
“Too many New Zealand children, particularly Māori and Pacific children, are exposed to second-hand smoke in the vehicles they usually travel in. Children are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke due to their smaller lungs, higher respiratory rate and immature immune systems.
“Second-hand smoke accumulates in vehicles, even with the windows open. It reaches much higher levels than in homes.
“Public education and social marketing campaigns over many years have had some impact, but the rate of reduction in children exposed to smoking in vehicles is slowing. It is now time to do more by legislating,” says Jenny.
Under the change, Police will be able to require people to stop smoking in their cars if children (under 18) are present. Police will also be able to use their discretion to give warnings, refer people to stop-smoking support services, or issue an infringement fee of $50.
“In 2016, recommendations by the Health Select Committee to ban smoking in cars carrying children were ignored. Now, this Government is taking action,” says Jenny.
“One of our core priorities is achieving equity in health. Raising public awareness about the dangers of smoking in cars carrying children can assist in achieving this goal.
“The legislation will also be backed up with a new and innovative public education and social marketing effort.
“Ultimately, the focus of this change will be on education and changing social norms – not on issuing infringement notices.
“There is strong support for legislating. Multiple surveys have shown around 90 per cent of people support a stop to smoking in cars with children present.
“New Zealand will join other countries such as Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, parts of the United States, and most of Canada – where smoking in cars with children is already prohibited,” says Jenny.
Vaping will also be included in the prohibition and it will apply to all vehicles both parked and on the move.
It is expected that this amendment will become law by the end of 2019.