14/11/2011

Car Smoking Ban Proposed To Protect Kids

The impact of second-hand cigarette smoke on children is in the news today with a call from the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) for a ban on smoking in cars carrying kids under the age of 16.

The UUP will today bring forward a motion asking the Stormont Assembly's Health Minister, Edwin Poots to bring forward legislation to halt the practice.

UUP MLA John McCallister stated that he would introduce the legislation himself through a Private Member's Bill if the Minister fails to do so.

The Health Spokesperson, said: "Smoking kills more people in Northern Ireland than obesity, alcohol, illegal drugs and road accidents all put together.

"Smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable death across Northern Ireland and it’s something which is putting a huge amount of pressure on our health service.

"Young people are particularly vulnerable to exposure of second hand smoke, much more so than adults. This is down to the fact that their bodies are still developing and vital organs such as their lungs are more susceptible to the toxins emitted by cigarette smoke," he added.

"Exposure to second hand smoke is known to cause asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), bronchitis, pneumonia, middle ear infection and a raft of other health problems.

"Children who are exposed to smoke from an early age are also statistically much more likely to smoke themselves later in life.

Some parents smoke in cars under the assumption that winding down the car window will let the smoke out, but in reality that only pushes it to the back of the car.

"In these conditions it has been proven that smoke can reach up to 10 times the recognised unhealthy level and often lingers for hours," he said.
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"People have been protected in public areas and their workplaces since 2007; however there is very little legislation in place to protect children and young people from the effects of smoking. Parents would never think about letting their child sit unrestrained in a car, therefore the same logic should apply about exposing them to harmful environments.

"I have already met with a number of key stakeholders to discuss my proposals and I am convinced that there is no evidence that shows why such a ban should not be introduced. Only a small number of people have raised their concerns about a ban; and that has been primarily down to wondering how such a law would be enforced, but my response has been that similar fears were raised when the ban on using mobile phones was introduced, and those were later realised to be unfounded."

He also said that independently commissioned surveys all reveal widespread public support for a ban on smoking in cars.

"I believe now is the time for Executive to start bringing items of legislation to the floor of the Assembly which have an obvious benefit of improving public health across Northern Ireland. If the current legislative void continues for much longer, people will continue to lose confidence with the current system.

"One way or another, I will ensure legislation proposing a ban on smoking in cars with children will find its way to the floor of the Assembly."

Commenting on BBC Radio Ulster today, Gerry McElwee of the Ulster Cancer Foundation (UCF) said: "UCF are confident that there is widespread public demand for this measure and can assure politicians of our support in the drafting and implementation of the necessary legislation.

"The UCF calls on our Assembly to act immediately to protect children from the serious health threat posed by second-hand smoke in cars.

"The evidence is clear - tobacco smoke contains 4,000 chemicals including more than 60 compounds known to cause cancer. There is no safe level of exposure to second hand smoke - even brief exposure can be harmful. Adults are now protected at work and in public but thousands of local children are still exposed to unacceptable health risks of second hand smoke in the car and home."

(BMcC/GK)

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