Call to end legislation delay banning smoking in cars

Legislation to ban smoking in cars where children are present has yet to be enacted, almost two years after senators proposed the ban, which has been endorsed by the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland.

The RCPI, the country’s largest postgraduate training body for doctors, has also called for all publicly funded institutions, particularly hospitals and academic campuses, to be made smoke-free.

The call comes in advance of the 10-year anniversary of the workplace smoking ban, introduced on March 29 2004.

Pat Doorley, chair of the RCPI Tobacco Policy Group, said that while Ireland had made “great strides” in saving lives and reducing harm as a result of the workplace ban, more policy measures were needed to achieve a “Tobacco Free” Ireland and prevent serious health problems in the next generation.

“We know that children of smokers exposed to second-hand smoke are at risk of the same health problems as those smoking themselves,” said Dr Dooley. “Indeed research shows that children exposed to second-hand smoke in cars, in the home and in other areas can suffer from tobacco related illnesses for up to 25 years later.”

Consultant oncologist John Crowne, the senator who first proposed a Private Members Bill which includes a smoking ban in cars transporting children, said the legislation was due back before the Seanad in the first week of April, complete with government amendments.

He said it was “a good bill that needed to be passed” but that the timeframe for enactment was in Government hands. However, a similar bill in Britain had got through the House of Lords with minimum delay, he said, and he was hopeful it would go “quickly through the Dáil” once passed by the Seanad.

“I sincerely hope it will be law by summer 2014,” said Prof Crowne.

The Government has already said it supports the bill and Prof Crowne said they had initially been given to understand that the legislation would be completed by January 2013.

A stumbling block for the planned legislation was the issue of how gardaí would enforce it. The bill proposed that passengers as well as drivers face fines of €3,000 for smoking in a commercial or private vehicle with children.

Prof Crowne said research demonstrates smoke in a vehicle is 40 times more harmful to children than in a room.

A statement from the Department of Health said the Government has approved “the principle of prohibiting smoking in cars with children present” and approved the drafting of amendments to the Private Member’s Bill Protection of Children's Health from Tobacco Smoke Bill 2012.

The statement said the department is currently “progressing” this legislation.

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