After midnight tonight, British Columbians who smoke in their vehicles with children present will face more than just social disapproval. They will become outlaws.

That’s because, to mark World Health Day tomorrow, our provincial government is putting new anti-smoking legislation into effect, which takes direct aim at this behaviour.

All I can say is, it’s about time.

As a lifelong asthmatic — and someone who endured more than a few nauseating car rides with chain-smoking adults during my youth — I have little patience for cigarette enthusiasts who force second-hand smoke on the rest of us.

So I give full marks to our politicians for trying to clear the air for kids who wouldn't have a say otherwise.

But will this well-meaning initiative really work?

It’s true that drivers who light up with Junior on board can be pulled over by the police and be hit with a $109 fine.

Unfortunately, other regulations focused on second-hand smoke haven’t had much of a deterring effect to date.

Last year, as part of a major anti-tobacco push, the B.C. government banned smoking within three metres of doorways, windows, or air intakes — as well as at transit shelters.

Health officials noted at the time that complaints from the public would help enforce the rules.

And yet, if you’re planning on enjoying a coffee in the sunshine this week at one of the Lower Mainland’s many café patios, there’s a good chance you’ll still be stepping on cigarette butts or sucking in tobacco fumes — proximity to doorways be damned.

It’s the same story at bus shelters, where puffers still rule.

Even the side entranceway to my condominium is a hangout for the smoking employees of a nearby nail salon, who don’t hesitate to light up there —and leave their disgusting cigarette butts scattered behind.

So what’s going to be different about tomorrow’s law?

Well, police enforcement and a nasty fine, for starters.

With the health of children at stake, our government leaders are bound to take this more seriously.

That’s not to say smokers should be blackballed.

Many longtime tobacco addicts are dealing with tough health outcomes, and they deserve our support and sympathy. Besides, not all of them flaunt the law.

But for those who willingly put others in harm’s way, it’s time for real enforcement, and less of the tiring lip service that props up the smoky status quo.

– Derek Moscato is a writer with a focus on urban issues, transportation, architecture
and economics;

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