An off-the-cuff comment on TV by police union chief Sandro Camilleri last night has led the country to the realisation that smoking while driving is actually against the law.
A video clip has been doing the rounds online of Camilleri claiming people who smoke at the wheel will, as of this Sunday, face a €50 fine. He later clarified his remarks, insisting he never said a new law was going to pass and that it has always been illegal to smoke while driving.
“Driving while smoking, drinking, eating or applying make-up was always punishable with a €11.65 fine because it impinges on the driver’s level of control of the vehicle,” he said. “The €50 fine is only applicable for drivers who smoke while children are inside the vehicle.”
A woman then posted on the Facebook forum The Salott an official email she received from a police officer which basically confirmed Camilleri’s comment of clarification. The police officer also confirmed the recently-introduced penalty points system doesn’t envisage the deduction of any points for smoking while driving unless it reaches the level of negligent driving.
Although it has been illegal for years, Camilleri’s announcement caught many off guard, with quite a few people criticising the law as unnecessary interference in their private lives.
“Why do the Maltese always have to start these things? For God’s sake, people still ride motorbikes without crash helmets in Greece,” one woman said.
“I can understand [the ban] with children, BUT alone in your own car???” a man asked. “Since when does the Government take over the ownership of your private car?”
“Malta is becoming a nanny state like Australia, but over here you can still smoke in your own car if there are no kids in it,” another woman said.
“Whatever happened to being tolerant and respecting each other?” Another man asked. “I assume all smokers are aware of the health risks, but the choice is still up to them. We must be tolerant and look beyond the end of our noses. Those who want to smoke can smoke, and those who don’t want to smoke don’t have to.”
While others used the occasion to remind the public of the dangers of smoking…
“For all those who are now panicking that they will soon no longer be allowed to smoke anywhere, may I remind them that smoking kills,” one man said. “If this is indeed a new law, then it will be one of the few laws we have that make sense. Besides improving road concentration, I hope it will also help people start smoking less. If you feel stressed, I suggest you go to the gym instead of smoking in the car while honking your horn and offending other drivers. That way, we can start improving Malta”