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by Brett Davis

New legislation by the ACT Government will be handed to the Legislative Assembly today giving police the power to fine motorists who smoke in cars with child passengers on board. The new law won’t be part of the demerit points scheme though, so drivers will not be capable of losing their licence due to the law.

The $250 on-the-spot fine will be enforced to protect the health of children, aged below 16, sending out a clear message to persuade motorists not to smoke in cars while there are kids present. Minister Katy Gallagher recently said in an ABC report,

“This is about behaviour change, it’s not about wanting to see people get caught under this legislation. Children are unable to get out of the car, or choose whether or not they can be in the car. Obviously as you get older there are more choices available to you.”

Ms Gallagher says that the new legislation doesn’t expect police to go out specifically to catch people smoking in cars with kids, she hopes the new legislation will simply deter motorists from smoking in the car in the first place.

“We’re also going to delay the commencement of it once it passes the Assembly, for six months, to make sure that we’ve got time to educate drivers about the new offence.”

At first police were skeptical about enforcing public health issues but have now agreed that it would be more effective for police to govern the act rather than have public health officials trying to enforce laws.

Opposition health spokesman Jeremy Hanson is all for the new laws, saying,

“I certainly support the intent of this. I can see no excuse for smoking in a car where there are children there. If people want to smoke that’s fine, but what we don’t want is people smoking in an environment which can harm children, and clearly smoking in a car can do just that.”

NSW and Victoria currently have similar laws already in place, although a child in Victoria is regarded as someone under the age of 18.

Feel free to tell us what you think about the laws in the comments section below.