MPs are to vote before the General Election on the plans, which would enforce a fine of £50 for people who smoke, or those who fail to prevent another person smoking, in cars containing under-18s.
A fine on conviction would be given if the case went to court. However, the proposed regulations would not apply if the driver was under 18 and alone in a private vehicle.
The move comes after the primary legislation was approved on a free vote in Parliament in February by a majority of 376 to 107. The 269 majority was larger than that for the 2007 smoke-free public places law.
A ban on smoking in cars has also been put forward in Scotland and Wales, and Northern Ireland is considering a ban.
Public health minister Jane Ellison said, ‘Secondhand smoke is a real threat to children’s health and we want them to grow up free from the risks of smoking. The only effective way to protect children is to prevent them breathing secondhand smoke, and our plans to stop smoking in cars carrying children will help us to do this.’
The British Lung Foundation estimates that 430,000 children are exposed to secondhand smoke in their family car every week, with the risks of passive smoking increased in the confines of a car. One cigarette smoked in a car creates concentrations of smoke 11 times greater than the average smoky pub. Secondhand smoke results in around 300,000 children visiting their GPs and nearly 10,000 being admitted to hospital each year.
The government has also announced a consultation to stop nicotine-inhaling products such as e-cigarettes being sold to under-18s. Under the regulation it would also be an offence for an adult to buy e-cigarettes for a child.
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said, ‘The introduction of a law that would help prevent hundreds of thousands of children from being exposed to secondhand smoke in the car is now within reach.
‘With both Houses of Parliament having made their support for the ban clear, the onus is now on the government to act accordingly and make this crucial child protection measure law at the earliest opportunity.
‘We are also extremely pleased that the other amendments proposed to this Bill have been successfully voted through. Standardised packaging, banning adults from buying cigarettes for children and prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to under 18 year-olds are important measures that will help protect the health of young people now and in the future.’