The Law: Can I Vape and Drive in the UK?
The UK Government introduced a ban on smoking in cars that are carrying children on 1 October, 2015. The law was poorly enforced, with many regional police forces not stopping anybody, but vapers reported that they were being stopped. We look at whether it is safe or legal to use an electronic cigarette while driving.
Introducing the law, the Conservatives said: “Secondhand smoke is dangerous for anyone, but children are especially vulnerable, because they breathe more rapidly and have less developed airways, lungs and immune systems. Over 80% of cigarette smoke is invisible and opening windows does not remove its harmful effect.”
A government spokesperson lauded the new law as “a landmark in protecting children from secondhand smoke“.
Nigel Rabbits, Devon and Cornwall Police Federation, said: “It is poor legislation that hasn’t been thought through and it’s very difficult to enforce.”
What is the law?
The law applies to private vehicles that are enclosed or vehicles with beds unless they are parked up. It applies if there is more than one person in the vehicle and one of them is under-18. The driver is also held responsible if they do not stop a passenger from smoking.
Do you get fined?
Smokers can be fined £50 for the offence, but officers can decide to issue a roadside warning.
In the first 12 months, three of the forty-two police forces in England and Wales stopped vehicles due to suspected smoking. All stops resulted in a verbal warning and no £50 fines were issued.
Is vaping against the law?
Vaping while driving isn’t illegal, but e-cig users can be cautioned or fined if one of their passengers is smoking while a child is in the car. Some electronic cigarette users have reported that they have been stopped by the police because they assumed they were breaking the law by smoking.
If you have an accident while vaping this might get you into trouble if the police believe how you were vaping impaired your ability to drive safely.
How can vaping make you an unsafe driver?
When dripping was a popular method of vaping, incidents were reported of ecig users dripping eliquid into their atomisers while driving, being distracted, and having an accident. Also, big clouds of vapour can obstruct the driver’s view of the road.
What do the police say?
Surrey Police Sergeant John Davis says: “Any person who is distracted in any way could be guilty of an offence – whether that be smoking, vaping or eating.”
Sergeant Carl Knapp, Surrey Road Policing Unit, adds: “The smoke caused by vapes are a distraction and the consequences of them can be dire, all it takes is a moment to become distracted and potentially cause a crash and even worse, a fatality.
“There are no laws prohibiting vaping, however, you need to be in full and proper control of your vehicle at all times. If you are going to vape, I advise that you open your windows and blow the vapour directly out, just ensure that you are in full control of your vehicle before doing so.”