​Since 1 July 2009, smoking in a car with a child under the age of 16 is against the law. A $250 on the
spot fine applies to the driver and any passenger who breaks the law.

Last updated: 10 November 2017

​What is the law?

Under the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2008 it is an offence to smoke in a car with a child under 16 years of age in the vehicle. If a passenger is smoking, the driver will also be liable. The law came into effect on 1 July 2009.

How is the law being enforced?

NSW Police enforces the ban on smoking in cars with children. If a person elects not to pay the fine and have the matter dealt with by a court, the maximum fine that may be imposed by a magistrate is $1,100.

Why is this law in place?

The NSW Government introduced laws to protect children from second-hand tobacco smoke. Second-hand tobacco smoke harms children’s growing lungs. Other laws include placing tobacco products out of sight in shops and increasing penalties for selling tobacco products to children.

What is second-hand tobacco smoke?

Second-hand tobacco smoke is also known as environmental tobacco smoke or passive smoking. It is a combination of smoke exhaled by the smoker and smoke which drifts from the end of a burning cigarette. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals and more than 60 of these are known to cause cancer in humans.

How is second-hand tobacco smoke a risk to children in cars?

Children are particularly susceptible to the health effects of passive smoking. Even being in a car with a smoker for short amounts of time can be bad for children’s health. Winding down the car window is not enough to stop tobacco smoke affecting children.

Because children’s bronchial tubes are smaller and their immune systems are less developed, they are more likely to develop respiratory and ear infections when exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke.

Children have smaller airways and breathe faster than adults, so they breathe in more harmful chemicals than an adult would in the same amount of time.

According to the National Health and Medical Research Council the negative health effects related to children’s exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke include increased risk of asthma, lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis, coughing and wheezing, and sudden infant death syndrome.

What about electronic cigarettes?

Since 1 December 2015, it is an offence to use an electronic cigarette in a car with a child under 16 years of age under
the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2008. For more information go to electronic cigarette page on NSW Health website.

Further information

For further information about tobacco control please see Tobacco and Smoking Control in NSW or call the Tobacco Information Line on 1800 357 412. The Tobacco Information Line can be accessed by non-English speaking persons via the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 13 14 50.


Current as at: Friday 10 November 2017
Contact page owner: Centre for Population Health