Police on the Fylde coast insist they will use their powers to impose fines on drivers smoking in cars with children onboard when necessary – despite issuing none since the law came into force.
The ban, hailed by health campaigners as ‘a landmark in protecting children from second hand smoke’, was described as a ‘low priority’ by policing unions when it was introduced in October last year.
But, figures released by the BBC show in the first seven months only three police forces – the Metropolitan Police, Devon and Cornwall and Dyfed-Powys – have tried to enforce the new law.
There have been less than a dozen reports and in each case a verbal warning, rather than a £50 fine, was issued.
Lancashire Police today insisted it would, if necessary, use all powers at its disposal to enforce the law.
A spokesman said: “When this law came into force the focus was placed on education and advice rather than enforcement however where appropriate we will issue fixed penalty notices.”
At the time the law was brought into force, the Lancashire branch of the Police Federation, which represents officers in the county, made clear officers’ concerns.
She said: “We have not got the resources to enforce this type of crime. I am not saying it is not important – of course it is.
“But in terms of prioritising, that is way down the list.”
Since October 1, last year it has been illegal to smoke in a car when a child under the age of 18 is present.
The law was the first significant change in smoking legislation since it was outlawed in workplaces - including pubs and clubs - in 2007.
The Department of Health said many people smoking with children in the car were unaware of how harmful it could be.
“In changing the law we always said the measure of success would be in changes in attitude and behaviour, not number of enforcement actions,” a statement from the department said.
“As with other smoke-free legislation, we expect high levels of compliance with this change that will continue to grow.”