Seanad debates

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

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


6:00 pm

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)

I rise primarily to commend my good friend and colleague, Senator Crown, the Acting Chairman and Senator Daly for their initiative in this regard. I compliment Senator Crown for an initiative he raised in the House which showed its value and effectiveness. He managed to single-handedly move one of the great ships of State, the Department of Health, to accept his premise that new high-class state-of-the-art cancer drugs should be made available to those who need them most, having argued very cogently in this regard.

Senator Cullinane's remarks are perhaps the best way of reflecting the enormous contribution Senator Crown makes to the House and the expertise he provides to those of us who are not aware of the nuances of health. The initiative will save lives. I do not think there is any higher calling than somebody who takes an initiative such as this. The end result is that its acceptance by the Government and Department of Health will mean some lives will be saved. It is a wonderful achievement and legacy.

As the Minister of State and Senators have outlined, this is also about the protection and saving of lives. Despite the technicalities of legislation and the fact the legislative process will probably change the Bill to make it more technically acceptable, the original premise will remain. It will ban smoking in cars and ultimately save lives. I agree with Senators Keane and Hayden that this measure could have been introduced under road traffic legislation. Section 4 refers to the authorised officer as being a member of An Garda Síochána which would suggest that when the Bill becomes law it will permit a garda to enforce the law in the same way he or she would enforce any other road traffic violations. It is a moot point. I have no doubt that, as the Minister of State indicated, the Bill in its original form will be changed to some degree. I am sure the sponsors of the Bill, like the rest of us, will await that with great interest.

I want to focus on one point, namely, a significant public information campaign. I and my wife, Sheila, have been blessed with five children. None of us smoke, except our eldest boy who is now 21 years of age. He went to a boarding college, which I will not name, when he was 12 years of age because he wanted to. He did not like it and I am not sure if it liked him but after less than a year he went back to his local school where he proved to be quite happy.

He said, and I agree with him, that the only thing he learned during his ten or 11 months in boarding college was how to smoke. The reason for that was there was very little to do for most of the day. A declining number of males and females attend boarding colleges but they are still in existence. It is a sad reflection that the one thing he took from it was that peer pressure was put on him to smoke. He was hanging around for a large part of the day and had little else to do. The teaching staff of such schools have a responsibility in this regard. They are good in many other areas but perhaps this issue slips under the radar. All of us who went through the school system know people went outside to smoke.

I do not want to bore the House by saying where I used to smoke. I was not in a boarding college; I attended a day school. When the Bill is passed perhaps there could be interaction with schools. I do not think scare tactics necessarily work with young people. Senator Daly and others referred to the stark statistics on smoking and the end result. I do not think that necessarily scares young people. One of our colleagues referred to the fact that young people see themselves as being inviolate and that life goes on for ever and a day. There is not much point in telling them otherwise. When I say to my son that if he continues to smoke, he will have health problems when he reaches his 40s, he just shrugs his shoulders. His generation does not relate to health warnings so there must be another way to convey the message. Perhaps the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Róisín Shortall, who was present, can help. I also welcome another Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, who is attempting to diminish the impact of the abuse of another drug, which is drink. Perhaps she will examine the area of smoking and not only when the legislation is passed. Can we have a more information-based environment to help deliver the message to young people?

Many years ago there were public information campaigns on television. I remember, as a youngster, that people living in the Border counties were fortunate to receive all the British stations long before they were available in Dublin and along the east coast. My part of the country was looked on as being deprived but we received British television when I was a child. There were many series of information advertisements but, ironically, I recently read that the department in England responsible has been wound up because it is a quango that is surplus to requirements, with the function being farmed out somewhere else. I do not see many television campaigns, especially in the public health area, on our screens. Perhaps the Minister for Health might examine the possibility and I am sure Senator Crown has a view too because of his profession.

I commend the Bill, as all sides of the House have done. It is a wonderful acknowledgement of the work carried out by focused Senators and I wish it well in its passage into law.


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