Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Protection of Children's Health from Tobacco Smoke Bill 2012: Second Stage
David Norris (Independent)
I thank Senator Barrett for his kindness. I commend my colleagues, in particular Senator Crown. I was fortunate enough to be in the AV room when he made his presentation. His speech on the Bill was a concentrated and even more brilliant demonstration of the presentation. I was greatly taken by the forcefulness, clarity and chutzpah of the young lad, Fionn O'Callaghan, in approaching the Taoiseach. I also learned this evening that he door-stepped the Minister. More power to him. He made a powerful argument indeed. I am pleased the Minister appears to be accepting the Bill because I was a little worried that he might want to associate it with the ban on smoking in parks and other public places, as there has been a campaign in that regard. The figures show that while there is a huge public swell of support for this measure, there is a considerable degree of resistance still to people being banned from smoking on beaches, for example. It would be a significant step forward to isolate the Bill and get it through the Houses in its present guise with massive public support.
I am pleased the Bill includes specifically the driver of the vehicle. One suggestion I made at the briefing had perhaps already occurred to Senator Crown, as he indicated that he felt it was already covered, albeit indirectly. In my usual way I can claim a small contribution to the Bill. Without Senator Crown we would not have had the Bill, which proves also the relevance of the Seanad. This is yet another example of a major social advance being made in this House. I am sure the Minister will pay tribute to that, as his predecessor, who just left the Chamber, the Minister of State, Deputy Costello, paid tribute to the valuable contribution of Seanad Éireann in his generous remarks.
The issue is quite clear; children have no choice. Mea culpa, I speak as a sinner. I keep trying to give up smoking. I do not always succeed. I go back to it. It is an addiction. When I was young it was the thing to do. All the handsomest men in the cinema such as Cary Grant smoked. Audrey Hepburn had a cigarette holder out to here and she was the most glamorous thing on two legs. I draw Senator Crown's attention to the fact that doctors used to prescribe smoking as a cure for asthma. It really is lunacy. I am a victim of my age, if one likes, but there is no excuse now. Likewise, there is no excuse for parents subjecting their children to this kind of nuisance.
However, I would take very little comfort from the fact that Cyprus was the first to sign up to such a measure. I know Cyprus pretty well. It signed up to all kinds of things such as MOT tests. I drove up the mountains behind lorries filled with vines and the smoke coming out of the back of them would blind God almighty. I have seen people go down to the seaside in cars filled with children and both parents and half the children were puffing away on cigarettes. Even the farmers throw lighted cigarettes out of the car window. Every year we have fires caused as a result of such action. Let us not be like that; let us be firm and clear. Let us introduce the legislation.