News story

Protecting children from secondhand smoke and nicotine addiction

Smokefree legislation to extend to private vehicles carrying children and consultation launched on stopping sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The government has today announced:

  • its response to the consultation on proposals to make private vehicles smokefree when carrying children and has laid the regulations in parliament
  • a new consultation on draft regulations which will stop the sale of nicotine inhaling products, including e-cigarettes, to under-18s.

Ending smoking in cars to protect children

The majority of respondents to our consultation on making private vehicles smokefree when carrying children agreed that reducing children’s exposure to secondhand smoke is important.

We will introduce the regulations to allow new rules to come into force in October 2015, subject to parliamentary approval.

The changes would 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 proposed regulations would not apply to a driver on their own in a car.

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said:

Secondhand smoke is a real threat to children’s health and we want them to grow up free from the risks of smoking. The only effective way to protect children is to prevent them breathing secondhand smoke and our plans to stop smoking in cars carrying children will help us to do this.

We’ll now debate the regulations in parliament and if approved, the rules should come into force next year.

The World Health Organization found that secondhand smoke is a real and substantial threat to child health. It causes a variety of adverse health effects including increased susceptibility to lower respiratory tract infections like pneumonia and bronchitis, worsening of asthma, middle ear disease, decreased lung function, and sudden infant death syndrome.

Stopping sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s

A new consultation proposes stopping the sale of nicotine inhaling products, including e-cigarettes, to under-18s. The rules would also make it an offence for an adult to buy e-cigarettes for a child.

The regulations apply to nicotine inhaling devices which include e-cigarettes, nicotine refill cartridges and nicotine liquids. Products that are licensed as medicines by the MHRA are not included.

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said:

Whilst we recognise the role that e-cigarettes can play in helping adult smokers quit, we want to protect children from the harmful effects of nicotine addiction and most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. There’s a risk that e-cigarettes could be appealing to children as use and awareness of these products increases.

These changes will bring e-cigarettes in line with other age restricted products, such as tobacco and alcohol and are supported by responsible e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers.

E-cigarette manufacturers, retailers and public health professionals have called for a minimum age of sale to be introduced.

The age of sale regulations and making it illegal to smoke in cars carrying children are part of a wider strategy to reduce smoking and to protect children from the health harms of secondhand smoke. Other measures include ending open tobacco displays in shops.

Published 17 December 2014