I had to do a little paperwork for the company car scheme yesterday, to acknowledge the fact that the allowance I get for running a private car has gone up. While this is no inconvenience (getting a little more cash is always pleasant), I was surprised by an additional paragraph and set of bullet points in the email from our fleet manager, which read thus:
On 1st July 2007 the Smoke free premises and vehicles legislation regarding smoking in vehicles comes into force (in England), with proposed fines rising to £2500.
Company vehicles are affected as the ban covers all enclosed public places, the law covers company cars, pool cars and hire cars. If a company car or van is likely to be used by more than one driver, or carry passengers on business, regardless of whether they are in the vehicle at the same time it must be a smoke free zone. Although privately owned vehicles are not covered by the new law it is unclear if privately owned vehicles are affected if they are being used for business purposes.
Drivers of convertibles will be exempt as long as the roof of the vehicle is down when they or their passengers are smoking. Smoking is allowed in vehicles which are for sole use of the driver and are not used by anyone else as either a driver or passenger.
- Smoking in a smoke free vehicle – between £50 and £200
- Failing to display a clear no smoking sign in a smoke free vehicle – between £200 & £1000
- Failing to do enough to prevent smoking in a smoke free vehicle – up to £2500
Various aspects of this astonish me. First, I'd have thought that the interior of a privately-owned vehicle - whether used for business purposes or not - was most definitely not a public place. After all, I'm allowed to keep people out of my Aston by the simple act of locking it, and I get to decide who does and does not get to sit in it. That's hardly conducive with it being classed as "public", especially since I don't have to post a set of opening times in the window.
Second, having to display a sign seems rather over the top - simply telling people not to light up should be sufficient. In the (hopefully unlikely) event that I have to put one of these things in the Aston, it'll hand by a thread from the rear view mirror - I'm not putting anything adhesive on my leather and carbon fibre dashboard.
Third, what constitutes "doing enough to prevent smoking"? Reductio ad absurdum and with tongue at least partly in cheek, in the event that someone sitting in my passenger seat lights up, can I legitimately remove my cockpit fire extinguisher from its bracket and discharge it in their face? Would I, by doing this, not only escape the £2500 fine but also the charge of common assault? If I'm driving at the time, does using a fire extinguisher carry the same penalty as using a mobile 'phone?
I suspect there will be some bizarre test cases around this legislation when it comes in (and a colleague who shall remain nameless has already told me that if I ever need to do the fire extinguisher thing, he'll cover my legal costs provided the moment is captured on video for posterity and posted to YouTube...).
I don't want people smoking in my car anyway, but this legislation seems decidedly crazy.