Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Protection of Children's Health from Tobacco Smoke Bill 2012: Second Stage
Mark Daly (Fianna Fail)
I welcome the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, to the House and thank him for his statement. We are fortunate to have him, as well as Senator Crown, in this debate. Both doctors have significant experience in this field and Senator van Turnhout has experience as an advocate of children's rights.
To praise the Minister comes easy given he has welcomed the Bill. Since I was elected to the House, often when Fianna Fáil was in government, positive legislation was shot down just because it came from the other side of the House. The Minister could easily have come in here claiming there are flaws in the Bill and, accordingly, he would not accept it. We accept no Bill will be introduced in this House and leave in the same condition. Amendments will have to be made. The Minister has pointed out some amendments that have to be made but I am glad he is willing to work with the legislation put together by Senator Crown and his staff, Shane Conneely. It points out the Seanad can do things differently because it has the expertise.
Senator Crown pointed out how a child in a car with an adult smoking will inhale as much smoke as a fire-fighter will inhale fighting a four to eight hour fire. That statement alone tells us this legislation is right. The fact it was not done previously now strikes us as strange. What we also have is widespread support for this measure. In Australia, similar legislation in 2005 had a 90% approval. Up to 72% of people surveyed in England support banning smoking in cars while children are present. An international review of North America, the UK and Australasia shows an overall 76% approval for banning smoking in cars with children present. In years to come, we will find it strange that this did not happen a long time ago as smoking causes more deaths than suicide, alcohol and cocaine, and children exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to have cancer in later life.
I thank the Minister for his genuine support for this Bill. I know there will be changes and I, along with Senators Crown and van Turnhout, look forward to working with his Department's officials to ensure this legislation can be introduced before the summer. I acknowledge the difficulties the Minister outlined. Not that I read the Bible much but I recall the adage to the effect that if one saves one life, one saves the world entire. Changing people's attitudes and ensuring children are not exposed to harmful second-hand smoke – which as Senator van Turnhout said of which they have no control - by bringing in this simple law will ensure lives are saved. The figure of over 5,000 people who die every year as a result of smoking will also be reduced. As a result of the Minister's actions on this legislation, many people will live to enjoy old age in the comfort of their families and friends.