Police and council chiefs were were slammed today for sending out ”sniffer wardens” to catch employees smoking in their company cars.
Tendring District Council and Essex Police are carrying out road blocks across Essex to catch employees illegally having a puff behind the wheel.
Anyone caught smoking in a company car faces a £50 fixed penalty fine or taken to court and issued with a £200 fine and conviction.
Council wardens and uniformed police officers will also check inside the vehicles for ”ashtrays” and the ”smell of smoke”.
If they find evidence of smoking they will also alert the drivers’ bosses and employers who could also be fined.
Over-zealous council chiefs were yesterday criticised for running a ”ridiculously disproportionate clampdown” which is a ”total waste of resources”.
John O’Connell, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ”This is a complete waste of money and a ridiculously disproportionate clampdown on what is a victimless crime.
”Taxpayers want to see police out on the streets solving and preventing crime in their communities, not setting up road blocks to pull over plumbers for having a cigarette.
”The council also have far bigger priorities right now so this is a total waste of resources.
”The council must reassess its priorities and work much, much harder to provide value for money for hard-pressed families.”
Chris Kitcher, acting head of environmental services at Tendring District Council said officers will be stopping vehicles to check if they are compliant with the smoking ban.
He said: ”Police together with council officers will be stopping business vehicles and public transport vehicles on the highway.
”We have noticed that people are smoking in commercial vehicles where in fact it’s banned and we will be looking for evidence that people have been smoking.
”If people are smoking they can be prosecuted, if we find evidence of smoking we will write to their employers.
”If people are smoking we will issue them with a formal caution or take it to court or write a letter.
”We will be looking for ashtrays and whether the vehicle smells of smoke.”
The council said the scheme is being carried out during March and National No Smoking Day on March 9.
Smoking in work vehicles was made illegal under the Health Act in 2006 which banned smoking in all vehicles used primarily for business purposes by more than one person.
Employers could face a fixed penalty notice of £200 or a maximum fine of £1,000 if convicted by a court if they have failed to display no-smoking signs in their staff vehicles.
A company has a duty to prevent smoking by removing ashtrays and training staff to understand the law, the penalty for breach is a maximum fine of £2,500 on conviction.
Ian Wilkins, environmental officer at Tendring District Council, said: ”When the new legislation came into force on July 1 2007, it became illegal to smoke in virtually all enclosed public places and public and work vehicles.
”I think it is fair to say that most people understood the rules when it came to public buildings, but there was some confusion over the rules about smoking in vehicles.
”We will use the month of March to carry out inspections, offer advice and generally try and make sure people are aware of and compliant with the legislation.
”This is primarily about raising awareness but, if we feel the case is appropriate, we will take action where contraventions are observed.”
This week it’s Geneva Motor Show: