26 Jun 2019

Bill banning smoking in cars 'awful' and needs work - National

8:34 am on 26 June 2019

A bill that would ban smoking in cars with children inside needs a major tune up, the National Party says.

A health promoter said 100,000 children were exposed to second-hand smoke in cars each week.

Photo: 123RF

The bill passed its first reading unanimously in Parliament last night.

It would allow police to issue $50 fines for those smoking with passengers under 18 years of age, though fines would not be enforced until 18 months after the bill passed into law.

National Party health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said that despite his party voting for the bill, it did little to actually discourage people.

He said the fine was not enough to moderate habits.

"What research shows is the fear ... and the cost of getting caught are barriers to bad behaviour and will moderate behaviour, but this bill doesn't do either.

"It's a paltry fine that's going to divert police resources."

Mr Woodhouse said National would be seeking changes at the select committee stage.

"I just think it's awful and we will be making proposals for improvements", he said.

"What we need to do is educate and ensure that people understand what the health risks are, not only to them, but to their children," he said.

Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa said the point of the law was not to hand out fines, and she hoped that in the 18 months people would educate themselves and change their behaviour.

"If you were look to the UK, when this similar legislation prohibiting smoking in cars was introduced, only one infringement notice actually went through to the court systems through the first 18 months or so, my hope is that would be similar here in Aotearoa," she said.

But Ms Salesa said police will be ready to hand out the infringements if needed.

She also defended an exemption in the bill that would allow smoking in vehicles that were being used as a dwelling.

"Dwelling also includes private homes, so we are wanting to keep as consistent with the main Act as we can, no government in New Zealand has ever come across with a policy to say people should not be smoking in their own homes, she said.

However, Michael Woodhouse said it demonstrated poor policy making.

"Minister Jenny Salesa [is] saying it was intended to be around motor homes, but that is not what the bill says," he said.

The bill will now go to the Health Select Committee, which will start calling for submissions over the next few weeks.