Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Protection of Children's Health from Tobacco Smoke Bill 2012: Second Stage
Imelda Henry (Fine Gael)
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Róisín Shortall, and the Minister, Deputy James Reilly, for taking the time to be with us today. I welcome this Private Members' Bill and commend the Senators who brought it forward. Senator John Crown has significant expertise in the area, especially on the effects of smoking on health from a cancer perspective. We are very lucky to have him in the House.
As Senator John Gilroy mentioned, we know environmental tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 substances, several of which are known to cause cancer in humans. They can cause lung cancer in adults who do not smoke and increases heart disease rates. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of passive smoking because they are still developing physically, have higher breathing rates than adults and little control over their indoor environment. Children exposed to high doses of passive smoking such as those whose mothers smoke run the greatest risk of experiencing damaging health effects such as asthma, sudden infant death syndrome, pneumonia, bronchitis and middle ear infections. Children whose parents smoke are also more likely to become smokers themselves.
With regard to parents who smoke while driving, the concentration of second-hand smoke in such vehicles can reach very high levels. Making vehicles smoke-free would reduce children's exposure to second-hand smoke. Parents want nothing but the best for their children and many parents make great sacrifices for their children's benefit. If parents knew how harmful second-hand smoke was to children, most would take steps to protect them. Educational efforts can play a crucial role in helping parents to understand why they need to protect their children from this health hazard and how to do so effectively. Paediatricians are especially well positioned to influence parents on this issue.
As a result of the high levels of exposure in vehicles to second-hand smoke among young children and the health problems they experience as a result, this should be considered to be a significant medical issue. I am delighted to hear Fingal County Council plans to have playgrounds, parks and public areas smoke-free. Every local authority should take such an initiative. There is no safe level of exposure, unless it is a smoke-free environment. I am also glad to hear from the Minister that a review is under way to identify further policy proposals that could be introduced aimed at reducing the prevalence of smoking in Ireland.