Finian McGrath and smokers

 

Sir, – As a former smoker, I have a certain sympathy for Finian McGrath and his views on smoking addiction (“McGrath asks for more public sympathy for smokers”, May 16th). However, a Minister should not use his privileged position to espouse his personal views on this or any other issue. His subsequent retraction is too late to undo the damage done to the efforts of many to resist the addiction. It also flies in the face of his own department-funded programme to reduce and ultimately eradicate smoking. He should also understand that dedicated smoking areas in any building continue to allow passive smoke, a known killer, to affect other patrons. I would suggest that he personally tries the electronic cigarette to help him kick the habit. It worked for me in the space of three months without any secondary addiction and has done so for many thousands. He might also take to task the tobacco lobby, which consistently questions the health implications of the electronic cigarette, which have no known adverse effects to their use, and does so despite the known deadly consequences of using its own products. – Yours, etc,

DEREK MacHUGH,

Bray,

Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Following his efforts to have services for cystic fibrosis, a chronic respiratory condition, improved at Beaumont Hospital, Minister of State for Health Finian McGrath is now advocating a relaxation of the smoking ban in public places. How ironic is that request? – Yours, etc,

ÉIMEAR SMITH,

Stillorgan,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Ireland was the first country in the world to introduce such a comprehensive smoking ban, and it has undoubtedly been a huge success. For Mr McGrath to state that “I think it would be no harm if we had a national debate on this” suggests he is not only 12 years behind the times, and acting contrary to to the World Health Organisation’s framework convention on tobacco control, and the European Union’s recommendation on smoke-free environments, but is also completely at odds with public opinion.

The latest Eurobarometer statistical report on the matter, published in May 2015, states that since 2012 Ireland saw the largest decrease in the proportion of smokers, down 8 percentage points since 2012. That’s 6 percentage points lower than the EU average. Just 21 per cent of the population now smokes, one of the lowest levels in the EU. I find it difficult to believe that the Minister could fully support the Government’s target of making Ireland tobacco-free by 2025 while also suggesting we should make it easier for people to continue smoking. – Yours, etc,

ALAN KENNEDY,

Edinburgh.

Sir, – I note with interest Finian McGrath’s stated objection to any increase in taxes on cigarettes in the next budget . I presume he would have no objection to any such tax increases if they were ring-fenced for the development and operation of cystic fibrosis units. Now there is a good idea! – Yours, etc,

Dr JOHN TRAYNOR,

Cork.

Sir, – I am sure there are have been many TDs, and even Ministers, who would have liked to row back on laws such as those that ban smoking in pubs and restaurants, but they have not been able to do that because they were subject to the party whip, and the party understood that we cannot have half-measures when it comes to matters such as this. Smoking is either banned indoors or it is not. Just as soon as there is any hint of ambivalence there will be an inevitable movement in the direction of making the whole system unworkable, and innocent non-smokers will once again be exposed to the nuisance of cigarette smoke and the tragic health consequences of passive smoking.

Mr McGrath’s call for designated smoking areas in pubs and restaurants is the best argument I have heard so far for not having Independents involved in government. – Yours, etc,

SEAMUS McKENNA,

Windy Arbour,

Dublin 14.