Reilly wants to ban smoking in cars with children present

 

MINISTER FOR Health and Children Dr James Reilly has said he wants to ban smoking in cars when children are present and hopes to bring forward legislation early next year.

However, he stressed 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 the right mind could agree that smoking in a car with a child is a sensible, wise, moral or ethical thing to do,” he said.

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 baby seats 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.”

He said he was awaiting proposals from the tobacco policy review that was under way about the need for such a ban and its possible implementation and he looked forward to the debate.

The Irish Cancer Society has welcomed the Minister’s intentions, but others have criticised the move as an affront to personal liberty.

The society said 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 health promotion manager Norma Cronin.

“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,” she said.

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.”