31 March 2021

Laws for smoking behind the wheel around the world

We all have our own idea of what relaxation looks like.

Of course, going on holiday to your favourite getaway destination is a great way to relax, as well as a great opportunity to really pamper yourself and indulge in all of your favourite vices.

Naturally, you'll need a way to get around, and expensive taxis and crowded public transport isn't always the best option.

A rental car opens up plenty more opportunities to enjoy your holiday.

A long, relaxing drive through a new country is a great way to get to grips with the culture. Even a slightly overwhelming journey through a busy city brings the opportunity to learn new road signs, immersing yourself in new road etiquette.

However, if you enjoy a cigarette, these scenarios might sound like the perfect time to light one up, but is it?

Of course, putting the cigarettes away until you've parked the car is the best choice, as having your hands preoccupied with a cigarette can become dangerous when you're behind the wheel!

The last thing you want is a brush with law enforcement in a foreign country.

To help you avoid this, so you can relax in peace, we decided to do the hard part for you and delve into the complicated laws and policies surrounding smoking and driving across the world.

So if you're planning your next getaway, or you booked your own rental to get to your international business meetings, read on to find out which countries are cracking down on smoking and driving.

Not all countries have an easy-to-follow, strict no smoking policy. Some have different specifications that are important to remain mindful of before sparking up at the wheel.
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You might want to blast the air conditioning if you're considering lighting up behind the wheel in Singapore. Their laws dictate that whilst smoking is allowed in private vehicles, no secondhand tobacco smoke can be expelled. So, get winding up those windows before smoking if you want to avoid a brush with the law.

Driving in a stressful environment, such as a new country, can really make those nicotine cravings spike. But, if you're in France, remember to keep those cigarettes tucked away if you have any passengers under the age of 12.

If you do happen to feel the need for nicotine, and you fancy having a quick bite to eat to keep the cravings at bay, be prepared for an on the spot fine of £50. Motorists in France are forbidden from eating whilst driving!

France isn't the only country that specifically says 'no smoking with any passengers under 12'.

Greece and Luxembourg both specify that drivers cannot smoke behind the wheel with any passenger who is under the age of 12 in the car.

In fact, Luxembourg law dictates that smoking is prohibited in playgrounds and sporting venues in which children under the age of 16 are playing. It also says that you cannot smoke in private vehicles in which children under the age of 12 are present.
Countries banning smoking and driving when minors are in a car
Of course, if you're smoking in a car, it's not always just you who's breathing in cigarette fumes.

Several countries across the world have implemented strict laws that dictate when you can and can't smoke in your car.

It's not always completely clear, and the age cut-off for passengers you can smoke around often varies from country to country.

In fact, in Poland, their laws forbid smoking for drivers with passengers, with the exception of passenger cars and trucks. But, there is no age limit for these passengers.

However, in Cyprus, the ban on smoking in cars applies when people under the age of 16 are travelling in the vehicle. Make sure you follow these rules if you're looking for a family trip to the idyllic island, as you'll face a fine of up to 85 euros if you break the law.

Keeping on top of the new laws is also key. The age limit is much higher in New Zealand, in comparison to Cyprus, as in June 2020, the country banned smoking in any vehicle carrying a person under 18 years old.

Here is a complete list of countries whose laws restrict smoking in cars that are carrying passengers, including minors:
  • South Africa
  • Luxembourg
  • Poland
  • Cyprus
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Mauritius
  • France
  • Ireland
  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • Austria
  • Malaysia
  • Qatar
Countries where smoking and driving is completely banned
If you're travelling solo, you might think you can relax and light up a cigarette whilst on a long car journey. Besides, you don't have any passengers, so it should be fine… right?
Well, some countries have gone the extra mile, and completely banned the smoking of cigarettes behind the wheel, no matter the circumstances.

The penalties for breaking this law varies from country to country.

In Argentina, smoking while driving is illegal, as well as listening to music through headphones and using a mobile phone. So make sure you keep your hands on the wheel if you're planning a car journey in this country!

Jordan has the same laws, as new traffic laws dictate that drivers may not smoke or use a mobile phone at the wheel.

Some countries ruled out smoking behind the wheel a long time ago; for example, Iran has had a smoking ban for all car drivers since 2006

Other countries, including Armenia, Turkmenistan, Honduras and Burkina Faso, all have a complete ban on smoking behind the wheel, no matter the circumstances.
Smoking and driving in the United States
Of course, whilst many of these countries have issued a nationwide ban, or restricted when you can smoke whilst driving, it can vary depending on which area of the country you're in.

All 50 states in America have their own state laws, which can cause trouble if you're not up to date on which state you're in and what their rules dictate.

So, whilst a road trip across America has probably featured on the majority of people's bucket lists, you might want to double-check where you can spark one up.

Some states do allow smoking behind the wheel, regardless of the circumstances. These include West Virginia, Kentucky, Nebraska and Iowa.

They're not the only states that allow you to spark up whilst driving, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Indiana, South Dakota, Indiana and Ohio do as well.

Of course, much like other countries, the US has states that have brought in laws to protect passengers from second-hand smoke.

The following states have specifications in their laws that dictate you can't smoke when carrying underage passengers:
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Utah
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Hawaii
  • California
  • Washington
  • Arkansas
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Maine
So, if you're in a traffic jam and you're starting to feel those nicotine cravings, make sure you're up to speed before grabbing your lighter.

If you're planning a road trip and you know you're going to have a few drinks in the evenings, why not start studying the drink driving limits from around the world, here?

The smoking and driving laws and regulations were correct when this research was carried out between the 15th-19th of March 2021.

Aleksandrs Buraks

Head of Growth at DiscoverCars.com
Aleksandrs has over 10 years of experience in marketing with a focus on creating stellar content that provides topical insights using data. Having taken five road trips across Europe and one in the U.S., he is passionate about traveling by car. His favorite countries to visit are Denmark and Thailand. You can find him on Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter.