Reilly explains smoking ban plans

Wed, Jul 27, 2011, 01:00

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has said he wants to ban smoking in cars where children are present and hopes to bring forward legislation to that effect next year.

 

However, he stressed today he does not intend to ban smoking in cars outright.

He described it as “irresponsible” for parents to smoke in the presence of children.

"I don’t think anybody in their right mind could agree that smoking in a car with a child is a sensible, wise, moral or ethical thing to do. You are exposing them to side-stream smoke which is even more carcenogenic than inhaling."

He rejected the notion that such a ban amounted to the nanny state.

"We see it every day in traffic with parents smoking with children caught in babyseats in the back and no escape. It is highly wrong. The State has a duty of care to our minors protecting them from unnecessary harm even if it comes from an irresponsible parent."

The Minister said he was awaiting proposals from the Tobacco Policy Review that is under way about the need for such a ban and its possible implementation.

The Irish Cancer Society has welcomed news the Minister is considering a ban, saying it would improve the welfare of children.

"We know that exposing children to second-hand smoke has significant health implications which can continue right into adulthood," said Norma Cronin, health promotion manager. "Unlike their parents who can choose whether or not to be in a smoky environment, children have little choice and cannot leave a smoke-filled car if they want to. However, any legislation introduced by Government must be supported by a public awareness campaign, similar to the workplace smoking ban which has been highly successful."

AA Roadwatch spokesman Conor Faughnan said there would be mixed views from motorists on the issue and that there was also an ideological issue involved. He said motorists tended to regard their cars as their own personal space. “Is the logical extension of that is that we should ban smoking in homes too or ban it altogether?” he asked.

Mr Faughnan said it would be a “profound mistake” if smoking in cars was made a road traffic offence as it was not a road traffic, but a health issue.

John Mallon, a spokesman for smokers’ lobby group Forest Éireann, described a potential ban as “nonsense and unnecessary”.

He said gardaí never enforced the smoking ban and its success was down to voluntary compliance by smokers.

Mr Mallon said Dr Reilly had “real issues” to tackle in health with the downgrading of rural hospitals, the absence of health facilities for old people and children, and people lying on trolleys.

“He is looking in the wrong places. These are the issues that matter to people. There is no need to legislate to ban smoking in cars and homes. It does not make sense.”