Seanad debates

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Protection of Children's Health from Tobacco Smoke Bill 2012: Second Stage


5:00 pm

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)

My Department is working on commissioning research which will give us the answers to this question in the Irish context. We must remember our young people are not now exposed to tobacco industry advertising in the media or in shops as they used to be. The pull factors are coming from other areas and sources which we must identify to effectively tackle them.

Tomorrow, the Secretary General of the Department of Health will issue the instruction that it will be a smoke-free campus. I agree with Senators that it is weird that when one walks to the front door of a hospital, one has to wade through cigarette smoke and butts. The tobacco policy review group is working on finalising its report which I will be submitting to my Cabinet colleagues for approval. This report will be of assistance in reducing the level of smoking in our society. A major part of achieving this is to denormalise smoking in our society. There are initiatives already under way that play an important role in denormalising smoking. One example is the tobacco-free hospital campus initiatives operated by the Health Service Executive, HSE.

When I attended the United Nations last year in New York, I noted the city authorities amended the Smoke-Free Air Act to ban smoking in some outdoor public spaces, specifically all New York city public parks, beaches, boardwalks, marinas, public golf courses, sports stadia and pedestrian plazas such as Times Square. Fingal County Council has taken the initiative in this area and completed a pilot study on this over the past year. It will be voting at its next meeting on making 50 parks with playground areas smoke-free zones. In its research the council found that 95% of people are in favour of reducing second-hand smoke in playgrounds while 95% are in favour of a complete ban on smoking in playgrounds. In 2008, cigarette waste formed 47.3% of the overall litter composition in Fingal. One journalist made the point she does not want her children rooting around in the sand on the beach finding cigarette butts.

I believe the debate about smoking in cars in which there are children is at the point that most people understand its significance, the harm it causes and the need to ban it. I hope with a bit more time, people will understand the problems presented by people smoking where children are present such as in parks and on beaches. If we can enforce the law around mobile telephone use while driving, we can certainly enforce a law around smoking in cars with children present. This is not about a nanny state. We are not telling adults what to do in their own time and place. We are advising them it will be against the law to endanger children through their personal habit.

I congratulate Senators Crown, Daly and van Turnhout for the introduction of this Bill. I want it to progress as quickly as possible but there are legal considerations. The Government has a heavy legislative schedule but it is great that the Seanad can contribute by bringing forward its own legislation.


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