Finian McGrath asks for more public sympathy for smokers

Minister of State for Health says there should be designated smoking areas in pubs and restaurants

Finian McGrath, himself a smoker of many years, has repeated his personal view there should be designated areas for smokers in pubs and restaurants.  Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Finian McGrath, himself a smoker of many years, has repeated his personal view there should be designated areas for smokers in pubs and restaurants. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

People should be more sympathetic to smokers, Minister of State for Health Finian McGrath has said.

Mr McGrath, himself a smoker of many years, has repeated his personal view there should be designated areas for smokers in pubs and restaurants.

“We smokers have an addiction,’’ he said on Sunday. “Every day, I try to give them up or reduce the number I smoke and, so far, I have not succeeded.’’

Mr McGrath, a member of the Independent Alliance, has responsibility for the disability sector, and attends Cabinet meetings as a “super junior’’ Minister.

He said although his view was personal, he appreciated some people might feel it incompatible with his departmental responsibilities and he would not be repeating it again while Minister of State.

He stressed he fully supported the programme for government’s target of making Ireland tobacco-free by 2025, with less than five per cent of the population smoking by then.

“Personally I feel smokers can be soft targets,’’ he added. “I can understand people’s concerns about the health implications, but the reality is a significant number of us smoke.’’

He added he would welcome an educational programme to discourage young people from taking up the habit. “I think it would be no harm if we had a national debate on this,’’ he said.

Mr McGrath said he was concerned about the illegal trade in cigarettes by criminal gangs. “Increasing the price of cigarettes too much assists these gangs and I think this should be taken into account when the next budget is framed,’’ he added.

The Dublin Bay North TD’s remarks reflect his outspoken and candid views. Last week, he defused a controversy when he announced he would pay his water charges after earlier indicating he had not done so as a protest against them.