New smoking ban proposal is most welcome

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly must be commended for proposing to introduce groundbreaking legislation which will ban smoking in cars where children are present.

This will be an exceptionally forward thinking piece of legislation if it gets the nod from government, but the Minister wisely is awaiting proposals from the Tobacco Policy Review before he moves ahead with his plans.

Fine Fáil leader Michael Martin, in a former role as Minister for Health, brought in the historical ban on smoking in the workplace seven years ago, and he met with strong opposition from vintners’ groups and organisations like Forest Éireann.

Well Forest are back on the bandwagon again and came out with the most ridiculous and outlandish statement on Wednesday evening when they said smokers were responsible people and would not light up in cars where children were present.

If that was the case the Minister would not now be addressing this issue. It would be equally ridiculous to suggest that all non-smokers were responsible people, because clearly they are not, and if there was no evidence to suggest that smokers were lighting up in cars with their kids in tow, then this legislation would not be necessary.

Smoking is a repulsive habit, enjoyed by thousands in this country, and one which has serious consequences, including death. You don’t need to be a smoker to die from its effects, but as an adult you have a choice to protect yourself against any irresponsible smokers out there who don’t care about the damage they may be causing to your health. That said, most smokers nowadays, especially since the workplace ban was introduced, are very considerate to those who don’t and opt to go outside for a cigarette, even if you are in a domestic situation.

But there are those who will never consider anyone else but themselves, and when it’s an innocent child who is being subjected to the deadly carcinogens puffed out in tobacco smoke, then legislation is needed to protect that child.

The State has been found wanting on too many occasions in relation to its responsibly of care to minors, and Dr Reilly is obviously conscious that this is one area where he won’t be found wanting.

Morally this is an excellent idea. How it will be implement remains to be seen, but even the debate which has been opened up is healthy and welcome.

While Forest Éireann is against the ban, the Irish Cancer Society has welcomed the move and said that any legislation must be supported by a strong educational and awareness campaign that highlights the health hazards of smoking with children present.

Groups that oppose this ban as an affront to personal liberty are deluded. What about the personal liberty of those innocent children who are exposed to second-hand smoke and develop respiratory problems as a result?

Responsible smokers would never dream of smoking in a car with a child, so they need not worry about the consequences of this ban. It is those who disregard totally the rights of the child who should stand up and take note and reassess their smoking habits.

This legislation might never get passed. It certainly demands extensive debate and assurances that Ireland is not turning into a nanny state.

The workplace ban has been a Godsend for us non-smokers, but innocent children cannot unstrap themselves from the back of a car and leave when an adult lights up. Someone needs to be their guardians on this issue. And while Minister Reilly has taken up that mantle, he has a lot of other very serious health issues to focus on too, such as the downgrading of rural hospitals, and the list goes on.


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