A NEW law which comes into force today makes it illegal to smoke in a car with children in Northern Ireland.
The new law brings Northern Ireland into line with both the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The new law affects a "smoke-free private vehicle", which is considered to be an enclosed vehicle with more than one person present, and one of those people being under the age of 18.
A vehicle is still considered to be enclosed when the windows and/or doors are open, but the law does not apply to motorcycles or to convertible cars when the roof is completely down.
An exemption is permitted for caravans and motor homes, as the primary purpose of these vehicles is for accommodation, therefore they are only required to be smoke-free when they are on the road.
A fixed penalty notice of £50 (reduced to £30 if paid in 15 days) is applied for the person smoking, or a maximum fine of £1,000 if prosecuted and convicted by a court.
A driver permitting smoking in a smoke-free private vehicle will receive a £50 fine, or a maximum fine of £2,500 if prosecuted and convicted by a court.
Another new law, banning the sale of e-cigarettes and other nicotine inhaling products to anyone aged under 18, has also come into force.
Cancer Focus Northern Ireland has welcomed the implementation of the long-awaited law to ban.
Naomi Thompson, Health Improvement Manager at Cancer Focus NI said:
"This is a significant move to a tobacco-free Northern Ireland. We firmly believe that these new laws will protect children’s health. We have already protected adults in workplaces and public places from second-hand smoke and it’s high time we gave our young people the same protection.
"It’ll also reduce their perception that smoking is normal behaviour. We know that children who regularly see adults smoke are more likely to try smoking."
England and Wales implemented the ban in 2015, and Scotland and the Republic of Ireland in 2016.
Commenting on the e-cigarettes ban, Ms Thompson said "there are concerns that young people who start vaping and become addicted to nicotine, may also become tobacco smokers, so we see this legislation working not only to reduce usage of e-cigarettes among young people, but potentially reduce the number of young people who ultimately take up smoking."
"Both of these new laws, and all of the tobacco control measures and initiatives we have championed over the years, will make a real impact on smoking rates in Northern Ireland, and protect and improve the health of our young people," she said.
In the near future, the charity hope that there will be a complete ban on smoking wherever children play or learn including playgrounds, public parks and theme parks.