Seanad debates

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

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


6:00 pm

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)

I compliment Senator Crown et al on introducing the Bill and the Minister on his stance. He has spoken widely on this issue. Despite the significant tobacco control measures that have been established to date and the widespread knowledge of the harm they cause, as the Minister of State said, smoking rates are still not decreasing. Senator Crown gave details of the confined space in a car. More has to be done about educating people in general, in particular about the dangers of smoking in cars. Protecting our children from harmful smoke must be the utmost priority of any public health policy on tobacco control.

A lot has been said about the dangers of smoking and health. The Minister is speaking to the converted. Since he came into office in the past year he has progressed issues on smoking regulations and the obligations of tobacco manufacturers to put graphic pictures on cigarette packets. There was an increase in excise duty. Such measures affect adults. This measure will speak for voiceless children.

Electronic cigarettes are not covered by this measure. They are banned in certain countries. A study was done in America on 19 brands of electronic cigarettes. Most have vaporised nicotine. Brazil, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and Thailand have banned them. They did not ban them for no reason. I would like the Minister to consider banning them. It would be very easy for somebody to take out an electronic cigarette and stub a real cigarette out. They look exactly like a normal cigarette. If a garda came to the window of a car the driver could argue he or she was smoking an electronic cigarette in the car which has the same scent as a normal cigarette. Enforcement of the measure will be difficult as long as such products are on the market in Ireland.

Other countries have done research. Electronic cigarettes were introduced about eight years ago. They are peddled on Ryanair flights which gives a bad example to children. We are discussing banning smoking in cars because of the example it gives to children. As electronic cigarettes look exactly like normal ones it defeats the purpose of the measure. More education should be available on such cigarettes. The Food and Drug Administration in the United States and Health Canada 2009 did surveys on them and advised against their use. They are relatively new in the Irish context, therefore few studies are available. I ask that the issue be considered in terms of enforcement and health. The Minister of State mentioned the work done by Fingal County Council, which I commend. South Dublin County Council is introducing local policies under local regulations for parks. Mr. Brian Sheehan is investigating the matter and following up on it.

According to the HSBC 2010, 12% of ten to 17 year old children smoke, which is very young. While we are considering banning adults from smoking in a household where children are present we should also consider banning children from smoking in cars where adults are present. If a ten year old child smokes a parent can say he or she was driving and not smoking. We need to work on this serious issue.

Senator Hayden made a good point. The use of mobile phones is banned in cars. There are no hands-free cigarettes, unlike hands-free phones. Until such time as they are introduced we should consider an outright ban on cigarettes in cars.


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