Northern Ireland cancer charity backs Labour's move to ban smoking in cars with children
Cancer Focus Northern Ireland is backing the Labour Party's move to ban smoking in cars when children are present.
The party intends to force a vote on the matter in Westminster to make it illegal in England - and Cancer Focus is hoping Stormont will follow suit.
Labour peers are to table an amendment to the Children and Families Bill detailing their proposals for England. The party says that if it is not passed in this vote, it will be included in its manifesto for the next election.
Cancer Focus is urging the NI Executive to carry out a public consultation on the issue as soon as possible.
Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention, said: "Passive smoking is an issue we are very concerned about. We should be making cars totally smoke-free if there are children travelling in them. We would also welcome a discussion on banning smoking in all vehicles.
“Second-hand smoke has been found to be strongly linked to chest infections in children, asthma, ear problems and sudden infant death syndrome, or cot death. When it comes to improving the health of children, we need to implement any measure that might make a difference.
"Adults are free to make their own choices but that often does not apply to children and that's why society has an obligation to protect them from preventable harm.
"Safeguarding the health of future generations is vital if we are to reduce the huge toll that society has to pay as a result of tobacco."
Simon Clark, of the pro-smoking lobby group Forest, has argued that legislation would be difficult to enforce and he accused Labour of "playing politics" with the issue.
Meanwhile, a Public Health Agency awareness event took place at Stormont today about the harmful impacts of smoking.
East Derry MLA John Dallat, an ex-smoker, urged people to visit the bus and avail of a free lung test as it tours towns and cities across Northern Ireland.
He smoked 60 cigarettes a day until he visited a friend at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Mr Dallat said: “I saw the varying degrees of harm that smoking did to people, in particular lower limb amputation and that was what made me stop smoking immediately. I went 'cold turkey' and, on those occasions where I experienced cravings for a cigarette, I reminded myself it was nothing in comparison to what I would experience if I had lung cancer.”
He added: “It is always good to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking but, if you want to stop, my advice is that the decision has to come from the person themselves. You must make that commitment within yourself first. If I hadn’t stopped smoking I’d be feeling a lot worse and, in every likelihood, I wouldn’t be here.”