The move to ban smoking in cars carrying children has been warmly welcomed by local families.
The Government announced on Monday it will prohibit smoking in vehicles carrying children under 18 years of age, with the law change coming into effect by an amendment to the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990.
“First and foremost this change is about protecting children. However, it is also part of the Government’s commitment to achieving Smokefree 2025,” said Associate Minister of Health Jenny Salesa.
“Too many New Zealand children, particularly Māori and Pacific children, are exposed to second-hand smoke in the vehicles they usually travel in. Children are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke due to their smaller lungs, higher respiratory rate and immature immune systems. Second-hand smoke accumulates in vehicles, even with the windows open. It reaches much higher levels than in homes.”
Everybody the Wanaka Sun spoke to about the announcement this week supported the law change.
One grandfather of five said it was “seriously overdue”, while a new mum we spoke to said New Zealand has been lagging behind other nations.
“There are no downsides to banning smoking in cars. Now let’s move towards a total ban in public,” she said. “I chose not to smoke but I can’t chose not to second-hand smoke. And it’s not just our health. Next time you go for a walk look at the ground - cigarette butts everywhere… Time to get it off the streets.”
Under the change, Police will be able to require people to stop smoking in their cars if children (under 18) are present. Police will also be able to give warnings, refer people to stop-smoking support services, or issue a $50 infringement fee.
“The legislation will also be backed up with a new and innovative public education and social marketing effort,” Salesa said. “Ultimately, the focus of this change will be on education and changing social norms – not on issuing infringement notices.”
Salesa said there was strong support for legislating with about 90 percent of people in favour.
“New Zealand will join other countries such as Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, parts of the United States, and most of Canada – where smoking in cars with children is already prohibited.”
Vaping will also be included in the prohibition and it will apply to all vehicles both parked and on the move. It is expected that this amendment will become law by the end of 2019.