Smoking ban laws will not be relaxed, Simon Harris says

Minister for Health fully committed to making Ireland tobacco free by 2025

Minister for Health Simon Harris said the smoking ban had been a real success. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Minister for Health Simon Harris said the smoking ban had been a real success. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Health Simon Harris has insisted there will be no relaxation of the smoking ban legislation.

Mr Harris said he was totally committed to the Programme for Government pledge to make Ireland tobacco free by 2025.

He said the smoking ban had been a real success and it was his and the Department of Health’s position that it should remain in place.

Mr Harris was speaking after Minister of State at the Department of Health Finian McGrath called for an easing of the workplace smoking ban to allow indoor smoking areas in pubs and restaurants.

Asked at Beaumont Hospital on Monday whether Mr McGrath said he supported Government policy on making Ireland tobacco-free by 2025, he said he had his own personal view but “of course” he would support the policy on health.

He said he also supported proposals in the Programme for Government to increase the price of cigarettes, despite having opposed previous excise hikes.

The Irish Cancer Society welcomed the comments from Mr Harris and said Ireland had “led the way in tobacco control measures, showing courage in tackling smoking rates and the tobacco industry”.

“We hope our strong record on progressive public health policies continues well into the future,” it said.

Maternity row

Mr Harris also confirmed he would be meeting St Vincent’s Hospital and Holles Street management to dissolve the row over the location of the new National Maternity Hospital.

He said he would be asking both sides to “lower the tempo” a bit and bring a timely conclusion to the row. The expertise is excellent but the conditions were “absolutely deplorable”, he added.

“I would ask both sides to make one last push to get this resolved.”

The National Maternity Hospital is currently struggling to maintain a service in Holles Street, while St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin 4 is seeing an increase in waiting lists and dangerous levels of emergency overcrowding.

It is proposed a new facility be built at St Vincent’s. However St Vincent’s is adamant that it must take over the governance of the facility, which has been rejected by the board of the National Maternity Hospital.

Mr Harris said governance was important but it should not prevent the facility being built.

“I will not let this hospital be lost over a bureaucratic row.”