The ACT Government is moving to ban people from smoking in cars when children are passengers.
It will introduce legislation into the Legislative Assembly today that will allow police to issue a $250 on-the-spot fine to adults caught smoking in cars with children around.
The penalty will be separate to other traffic infringements, so people cannot lose their licence if they fail to pay the fine.
Most other Australian jurisdictions have similar laws.
Chief Minister Katy Gallagher says it will send a clear message that smoking is a danger to children’s health.
“This is about behaviour change, it’s not about wanting to see people get caught under this legislation,” she said.
“We’re also going to delay the commencement of it once it passes the Assembly, for six months, to make sure that we’ve got time to educate drivers about the new offence.
Ms Gallagher says police initially expressed some concerns about enforcing public health laws, but that has been worked through.
“I don’t think it was feasible either to have public health officials out pulling people over in cars because they don’t have the powers to do that either,” she said.
“We’ve reached a healthy compromise and we don’t expect there will be additional cost because we don’t expect that police will pursue people just for smoking.”
Anti-smoking lobby groups have praised the proposed changes.
Quit executive director Fiona Sharkie says tobacco smoke poses an enormous health risk to children.
“The dangers of secondhand smoke are well documented and the harms that second hand smoking or smoking near children at all, are really devastating,” she said.
“In a confined area like a car it’s really important people are not smoking around anyone in the car, but particularly young children.
“It’s an enormous health risk particularly in respiratory illnesses and also can be with glue ear. We’re talking about young babies and the high rates of SIDS from smoking households.”
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