Call to ban sale of cigarettes by 2025 makes sense
Deaglán de Bréadún
Talking with some friends last night about the political outlook, we agreed one of Fine Gael’s problems is that it hasn’t got the same firepower at the front line as in the party’s glory days of Garret FitzGerald, Alan Dukes, John Kelly, et al. Avril Doyle was another who came to mind. A member of the Belton clan, which has had a prominent role in Irish affairs over the years, she is an able politician and formidable in debate.
Nowadays, Ms Doyle is a Member of the European Parliament for the “Ireland East” constituency, along with party colleague Mairead McGuinness and Liam Aylward of Fianna Fail.
In terms of political profile on the domestic scene and despite the excellent work of the Parliament office in Dublin, ”going to Europe” is the equivalent of entering a convent or a monastery.
But even without ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament is an increasingly-important body which deals with a growing range of issues that impinge on our daily lives. As Neil Kinnock once pointed out to me, it is the largest democratically-elected assembly in the world (his wife Glenys is a Labour MEP).
But sadly, the Parliament is not taken seriously by the media in English-speaking countries (The Irish Times is of course one of the honourable exceptions). It just doesn’t catch people’s imagination and its workings as part of the EU system can be extremely complex. However my eye was caught by a report (see link below) that Ms Doyle had called for a total ban on cigarettes and cigars throughout the EU within 15 years, with the clock to start ticking in 2010.
Ireland and then-Health Minister Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil led the way internationally with the ban on smoking in pubs and the workplace. Here’s a chance to build on that, on a cross-party basis, and show what good Europeans we are at the same time.
When I was being treated (successfully, according to test results) for prostate cancer last year I became friendly with an elderly lady whose appointments generally coincided with mine. Her condition, I gathered, was lung-related, but every opportunity she got, she escaped from the waiting-room to go outside and puff frantically on a cigarette. I can still see her in my mind’s eye, dragging desperately on a butt as though her life depended on it, when the opposite was probably the case.
Meanwhile, a very dear friend of mine who had lung cancer was told by his specialist that, unless he gave up the “smokes”, the treatment would be discontinued. He did, but it was too late and he has since sadly passed away.
The 15-year time-frame makes sense. Let’s hope talk is translated into action. I assume a simple point-of-sale prohibition is intended but the penalties would need to be judicious and “commonsensical”. What we don’t want is for ciggies to join the dreary list with marijuana, cocaine and heroin as part of the repertoire of the illegal drugs trade.
This is an idea whose time has come. Why didn’t we think of it before?
Deaglán de Bréadún (longtime ex-smoker)