Seanad debates

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

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


5:00 pm

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)

I commend the Senators involved, especially Senator John Crown, for bringing forward this important Bill. My party supports the motivation behind it. The smoking ban has been a great success and, undoubtedly, improved public health and our living environment. The Bill seeks to extend it. We have a number of difficulties with parts of it which must be teased out. We share some of the concerns expressed by the Minister, an example being the issue of enforcement. It is appropriate that the Bill be supported in order that we can tease out the issues raised on Committee Stage. The Minister has stated we need enforceable and strong legislation, for which there will be cross-party support.

The Bill provides an opportunity to address some of the issues surrounding smoking. Progress has been made in recent years in this regard, especially with the smoking ban. Studies have shown the benefits, both for workers in indoor areas and the general public. However, smoking is still too prevalent. We, therefore, need effective legislative measures and enforcement to curb smoking and stamp out the selling of cigarettes to minors. In 2009 a survey undertaken by the Office of Tobacco Control showed that 40% of shop retailers and 63% of licensed premises were willing to sell cigarettes to minors. Legislative measures have been introduced to address this issue and more are being contemplated.

Young people are continuing to start smoking in large numbers. A study undertaken by Dr. Alan Moran in Drogheda considered the issues of peer - parent and sibling - pressure and the reasons teenagers stopped smoking. Dr. Moran surveyed pupils in three main secondary schools in the north east and the results indicated that if a sibling smoked, an adolescent was 3.5 times more likely to smoke. If a best friend smoked, an adolescent was 11.5 times more likely to smoke. Of the boys surveyed, some 75% reported they enjoyed smoking. However, 80% reported they had made an attempt to stop smoking, while 70% wanted to stop. Some 34% had begun to smoke because of stress, 15% to "feel cool", 11% to gain confidence, 10% for enjoyment, 9% because of an addiction and 3.3% because friends smoked. In spite of legislation banning the sale of cigarettes to people under the age of 16, all the adolescent smokers surveyed for the study stated they were able to buy cigarettes in licensed premises and shops. Clearly there is a need to ensure the number of young people who take up smoking is minimised as much as possible. Smoking in cars in which there are children is irresponsible and makes smoking seem normal and acceptable. Clearly it is not.

The title of the legislation says it all - Protection of Children's Health from Tobacco Smoke Bill 2012 - which is essentially what we want to do. We have a difficulty with aspects of the Bill and are concerned about its enforcement. It is a bit different from what we were trying to do before and what we have done. It may be more problematic to ban smoking in private cars, but it is not impossible. We believe we must get the legislation right. We are reassured by the Minister who said he is of that mind. Many older people who smoked are experiencing all the damaging consequences of smoking. The cost in terms of population health and the drain on the scarce resources of the public health service is substantial. The campaign to reduce smoking and to work towards a smoke free society is very important and needs to be maintained and expanded.

I take this opportunity to comment on the price of tobacco. Action on Smoking and Health, ASH, Ireland expressed its disappointment that the Minister for Finance did not increase the price of tobacco sufficiently in the budget. Price is recognised by the World Health Organization and others as the most important way of encouraging smokers to quit and discouraging young people from experimenting with tobacco. The Government, however, expressed the view that such price increases might encourage tobacco smuggling. That is an inadequate and evasive response. I call on the Government to consider such measures for inclusion in the next budget.

We support the passage of this Bill. I thank the Senators who tabled it, especially Senator Crown, whose knowledge and experience gives it clout. I have asked him on several occasions, which perhaps he will, to arrange a briefing for Oireachtas Members on cancer care. Great strides are being made internationally in cancer research and treatment. All parties must work with the Minister to ensure this Bill becomes enforceable and robust legislation.


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