From 1 October this year, people in cars with children will no longer be able to smoke. Failure to comply could see them facing a Â£50 fixed penalty notice.
Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: 'Three million children are exposed to secondhand smoke in cars, putting their health at risk. We know that many of them feel embarrassed or frightened to ask adults to stop smoking which is why the regulations are an important step in protecting children from the harms of secondhand smoke.'
She added: 'The regulations will become part of the existing smokefree laws and would make it an offence to smoke or to fail to prevent smoking in a private vehicle with someone under the age of 18 present. The regulations do not apply to a driver on their own in a car.
Public Health England has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers that secondhand smoke in homes and cars can cause to children's health.
Secondhand smoke is particularly harmful to children as they breathe more rapidly and have less developed airways. Children being exposed to secondhand smoke results in more than 300,000 GP consultations and 9,500 hospital admissions every year.
Secondhand smoke puts children at risk of serious conditions, such as respiratory infections and meningitis and triggering asthma.
A survey by the British Lung Foundation found that 86 per cent of children who are exposed to smoking in cars would like the smoker to stop, yet only 31 per cent actually feel able to ask them to do so.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer, said: 'The passing of regulations to make smoking in cars carrying under 18s illegal is a significant victory for protecting children's health from secondhand smoke. Smoking just a single cigarette in a car exposes children to high levels of air pollutants and cancer causing chemicals like arsenic, formaldehyde and tar.
'Children are least equipped to speak out to protest against secondhand smoke, so I welcome this legislation to end smoking in cars when they are present.'
Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director for Health and Wellbeing for Public Health England, added: 'Many parents aren't aware that over 80 per cent of secondhand smoke is invisible and odourless. Our campaign shows parents what is really there and brings to life that no matter how careful you are, children still breathe in harmful poisons. A completely smoke free home and car is a strong and positive step towards protecting the health of our children.'
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: 'After years of campaigning on this issue, we could not be more delighted by the Government's commitment to help stop smoking in cars with children present.
'With so many children being exposed to secondhand smoke in the family car every week in the UK, we are certain that this measure will prove to be one of the most significant moments for public health since the smokefree legislation of 2007.'
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