Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Protection of Children's Health from Tobacco Smoke Bill 2012: Second Stage
Colm Burke (Fine Gael)
I welcome the Minister and I welcome the Bill put forward by Senator Crown, seconded by Senator van Turnhout and supported by Senator Daly. This is a welcome development. The Government side will look at it very carefully as there may be additional proposals or amendments made so that it can be fully implemented and be enforced. However, the overall attitude of the Government is to take on board this proposal and see it through.
One in every four people in this country smokes. Therefore, three out of every four people do not smoke. Up until a few years ago, these people encountered smoke no matter where they went, yet while we have since banned it in bars and restaurants, we have not banned it in cars. If three out of every four people who travel do not smoke, why should they have to sit and put up with the habits of other people? Over 5,000 people die prematurely every year as a result of smoking themselves or by enduring the habits of other smokers. Anything that can be done to reduce that risk is welcome.
It is interesting to see more recent figures on attitudes in Ireland and how we still lead in Europe in respect of young people who smoke. We still do not appear to have put across the message strongly enough. I read a survey where the figure for young smokers in Europe is as low as 12.1% in Sweden, 17% in Norway, and 20.7% in Italy, but in Ireland it is 22.4%. We still have a substantial number of young people who are beginning to smoke, and once people start smoking, it is that much more difficult for them to give it up. Anything that can help to reduce the number of people who smoke must be welcome.
The Minister already outlined proposals last December to make it mandatory for graphic images to be placed on packaging from 1 February 2013. These images set out quite clearly the damage that smoking can cause to a person's health. From 1 February 2014, no packet of cigarettes can be sold without those graphic images, and that is welcome.
We have much work to do to persuade people not to smoke.
Some 29% of people are still smoking and 24% smoke regularly. The problem is continuing and we are not making the inroads we should me making. Despite campaigns warning people about the health risks of smoking, the message is not getting home. We need to be more proactive. The Bill is another step in getting the message across. It deserves the support of this House and of the Dáil. We must make this amendment to the law.
Senator Crown has set the Bill out clearly. It is short and makes minor amendments. We must consider the concerns of the Government that the Bill be enforceable. I have already outlined my reservation about one issue. Could a person of 17 be prosecuted for smoking while driving a car? That is a technical issue and similar technical issues must be looked at.
Overall, the Bill is welcome and we should support it. It has the support of the Fine Gael group in the Seanad. We will table amendments at a later stage, but the general proposal is welcome. I congratulate Senators Crown, Daly and van Turnhout on bringing forward the legislation.