August 31, 2010 - Victoria, Australia - ban from smoking in cars when children under 18 are present comes into force January 1, 2010.. The ban, intended to protect children from the harmful effects of second-hand tobacco smoke, applies regardless of whether the car is moving or whether windows and roofs are open.
Police caught 62 smokers in the six months after the passing of a law decreeing that cars carrying children (kids) be smoke-free. The problem is mainly in the west and women smokers aged 30-39 are the worst offenders, figures show. The state's western police region, which had the most offenders, includes Bendigo, the Central Goldfields and the Macedon Ranges.
Under the ban, people who are caught smoking in cars carrying under-18s face a $239 on-the-spot fine. The maximum penalty, enforceable in court, is $584.10.
Latest police figures reveal that up to June, 138 people - about five a week - had incurred on-the-spot fines. Of those, 25 were women aged 30-39, and 21 were males aged 15-19.
Research by the Tobacco Control Journal has found "fine particulate matter" levels from smoking in cars can be as high as in a smoky pub and much higher than is recommended in World Health Organisation guidelines.
Children exposed to second-hand smoke are more at risk of lower respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections, and severe asthma attacks - and of becoming smokers later in life.
Quit Victoria executive director Fiona Sharkie said previous research had shown 90 per cent of Victorian smokers supported the ban on smoking in cars. "People do still need to be informed about the legislation, and a fine is one way of telling them," she said. "There is no safe level of second-hand smoke. People think if they put the window down, it will be OK, but all that does is push the smoke into the back of the car." She said fewer than 17 percent of adult Victorians were regular smokers, but the 18-24 age group had the highest smoking rates.
In Queensland, 158 people copped fines under smoke-free car laws between January and June.
A spokeswoman for Victorian Health Minister Daniel Andrews said it was disappointing that people weren't obeying the law. "There is no excuse to smoke in a car with children around," she said. "These results are disappointing but it shows there was a need to legislate, and that's why the Government did. These penalties should serve as a reminder for parents not to smoke in cars carrying children."
Reference: NEGLIGENT parents are being slapped with hefty fines for lighting up cigarettes in cars carrying children, Elissa Doherty, Heraldsun.com.au, 9/1/2010.
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