Smoking tobacco products in cars with carrying children will be illegal from 1 October, under new legislation announced by the government.
Violating the ban will carry a fixed £50 fine. The move has been welcomed by anti-smoking campaigners as a significant step in protecting the health of children. The ban will not apply to cars containing only people over the age of 18.
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: 'This is a tremendous victory for the half a million children being exposed to second-hand smoke in the family car every week in England. Parliament has spoken and we now look forward to the introduction of a ban on smoking in cars with children by October 2015.'
Public health minister Jane Ellison said: 'Three million children are exposed to second-hand smoke in cars, putting their health at risk. We know that many of them feel embarrassed or frightened to ask adults to stop smoking which is why the regulations are an important step in protecting children from the harms of second-hand smoke.'
Research has shown that passive smoking in cars carries significant health risks. A study by the British Lung Foundation found that approximately 430,000 children aged between 11 and 15 are exposed to cigarette smoke as a result of family members smoking in cars. The charity has suggested that smoking in cars concentrates the harmful effects by as much as 11 times compared with smoking outside.
Other research has found that smoking in cars costs the NHS up to £23 million each year, is responsible for 300,000 GP consultations, and has caused as many as 40 cot deaths each year.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity ASH said: 'Generations of children have grown up protesting about having to put up with smoking in cars. Finally, their call has been heard and from October this year, they will be protected by law. The next step is standardised plain packaging. The government has committed to making this law, but to do so they need to get a move on and lay the regulations before parliament without further delay. Taken together, the regulations on smoking in cars and standardised packaging will help de-normalise smoking and protect children from this deadly addiction.'