More than 40 taxi drivers have been slapped with a fine for smoking in their cars, shock new figures reveal.
Some 42 have been fined for smoking in their cabs over the past year.
It is against the law for Hackney carriage and private hire drivers to smoke in their vehicles because as licensed places they must be smoke-free.
The law applies regardless of whether or not there was a passenger in the vehicle.
Plymouth City Council’s licensing committee heard a report which stated that during 2011 up to March 31 2012, officers issued 42 fixed penalty notices to drivers “who were observed smoking in their licensed vehicles”.
A taxi drivers’ trade body told The Herald today it had little sympathy for drivers who broke the law.
Roy Hamilton, of the Plymouth Taxi Drivers Association, said: “The figures are rather concerning – no taxi driver should be smoking in their vehicles because they know they’re not supposed to.
“I’ve got no sympathy for them – the law says that you can’t smoke in a taxi and that’s that.”
Paddy O’Reilly, of Need-acab in Pennycross, said: “One fixed penalty notice is too many really. The law is the law and if it says you can’t smoke then you can’t smoke. I don’t smoke now but even when I did I didn’t smoke in the car anyway because it’s like your office and it’s not very nice.”
The smoking ban in taxis was introduced in 2007. Steve Cooper, who works for Crownhill Taxis, has said he wants to see the number of fixed penalty notices issued for smoking offences lowered by next year.
He said: “As a taxi driver I know I’m not allowed to smoke in my cab. The 42 drivers caught over the year is relatively high considering we know we’re not allowed to smoke – it’s been a policy for a number of years now.
“It’s not nice for the customer to get in a taxi and smell smoke. I would like to see the figure lowered by next year for the sake of the customer if nothing else.
“You can always stop and have a cigarette, there’s always time to pull over. There’s no excuse for smoking in the cab.”
The committee report also revealed that hundreds of taxis have been removed from the roads because they were not deemed roadworthy.
The report said: “Enforcement officers conducted 708 roadside vehicle inspections during this period, checking for worn tyres, defective lights, cleanliness, damage and functioning taximeters.
“These inspections resulted in 203 immediate prohibitions being issued, primarily for defective tyres and lights; a further 199 vehicle defect reports were issued requesting that non-urgent repairs are carried out within a specified time.”
Although the statistics over the past five years have been decreasing, the report said the number of immediate prohibition notices issued was “disappointingly high”.
A spokesperson for the local authority said: “Part of the enforcement work we carry out aims to ensure that licensed vehicles remain roadworthy and safe to transport passengers.
“We target vehicles that concern us and the most common reasons for action to be required are worn tyres and defective lights. We expect the drivers and owners of licensed vehicles to carry out daily checks.
“Licensed vehicles must also remain smoke-free regardless of whether or not a passenger is onboard.
“Taxi enforcement officers carry out regular operations with other agencies such as the police to ensure that all drivers operate within the law and comply with their licence conditions.”