Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Protection of Children's Health from Tobacco Smoke Bill 2012: Second Stage
John Crown (Independent)
I express my overwhelming sense of gratitude to my Seanad colleagues for their support for this legislation. In particular, I thank Senators Jillian van Turnhout and Mark Daly for helping to draft it and bring it to this stage. I thank the Seanad for the quality of the debate, the high level of information provided and the attention given to it. I also thank the parliamentary parties. I am aware that they discussed the legislation during their meetings and I am grateful to them for deciding to advance it. I thank the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, the Ministers of State and the Government as a whole for the extraordinary spirit of co-operation they have demonstrated in advancing the legislation. I am new to this process. It had been suggested to me that when ideas which were perceived as being good were advanced into the halls of the Oireachtas by Deputies or Senators not members of a Government party, it was sometimes the case that lip service was paid to the quality of the legislation before the Government promised to introduce something better. I am grateful, therefore, that this legislation has received such support. That will help the Bill to be passed more quickly, expeditiously and smoothly.
I am tremendously sorry that I did not bring my mother here today, as I do not think she believes I am as successful in life as some of my colleagues think I am. It would have been nice for her to have heard the many nice things being said. Given that historically I have not had the closest of relationships with those who have held the position of Minister for Health, it is very inspiring for me that three ministerial representatives of the Department of Health came to the House to support the Bill this evening.
I acknowledge that this initiative is not wholly our idea. Others have suggested it. The Minister has mentioned that ASH Ireland took up the cause a number of years ago and I am grateful that it is represented in the Visitors Gallery tonight. The Irish Cancer Society has also been very supportive of general anti-smoking initiatives. The main advantage of the approach being taken by my colleagues and me is that we have a foot in the halls of power and are in a position to give these good ideas a little entrée into the legislative process. If this simple, stand-alone Bill is passed in its current form or in some version of its current form that contains necessary legal adjustments to make it applicable, enforceable and compliant with existing legislation, it will make a difference. If the Bill, as it stands, is substantially passed, without anything else being done, it will make a real difference to the lives of children, those who are alive now and who will be born in the future.
It must be acknowledged that the tobacco industry has a track record of opposing any legislation that appears to roll back the "rights of smokers". I recommend to all my colleagues that they read an interesting book, The Emperor of All Maladies, which is a history of the war on cancer. It sets out the extraordinary lengths to which the tobacco industry went when the simple and obvious discoveries made at an early stage made it apparent that smokers were more likely to develop lung cancer. The industry's efforts to try to prove this was not the case continued until the last decade. That leads me to believe substantial attempts will be made to confuse some of the issues raised in this simple Bill with some of the larger and more ambitious legislative programmes being proposed. I emphasise that I will support the broader legislative proposals coming down the line in an attempt to further diminish the scourge of smoking in our society. I will be extremely supportive of attempts by the Minister for Health and his ministerial colleagues to introduce further legislation in this regard. The Bill before the House stands on its own as a simple, small legislative attempt to make a difference. Perhaps I will acquire more expertise on the European technical standards directive, the existence of which I was not aware of until it was mentioned by the Minister.
My colleague, Mr. Shane Kenneally, and his colleagues who work for Senators Mark Daly and Jillian van Turnhout have done wonderful work to advance the legislative process. We are all available at short notice to meet any of the officials who would like this matter to be advanced quickly. We are continuing to work to the goal of having the Bill signed into law before the end of the current Oireachtas term in order that children can go on their holidays this summer in cars free from the scourge of smoking. We will support amendments that are necessary, as long as the core central component of the Bill is maintained. In other words, the legislation will have to continue to ensure a child, defined as someone who has not yet reached his or her 18th birthday, will not under any circumstances be exposed to tobacco smoke in a car, regardless of who is driving and even if he or she is the driver. I remind the House that a child should not be allowed to purchase cigarettes until his or her 18th birthday.
I thank the Minister of State for sitting through this part of the debate. I ask her to pass on my gratitude to her ministerial colleagues. I thank everybody who was in attendance for the debate and hope the legislation will be advanced quickly.