Car smoking ban 'unlikely before next Assembly election'
A ban on smoking in cars is unlikely to be introduced before the next Assembly election, charity Cancer Focus said.
The country is lagging behind the rest of the UK and Ireland because legislation has been stalled while other tobacco control measures were prioritised, the lobby group added.
Stormont's health department said there was still scope for the prohibition to be included in a bill this autumn.
Cancer Focus Northern Ireland chief executive Roisin Foster said: "It would be remiss of us not to acknowledge the progress that has been made in restricting access to harmful tobacco products by this Assembly, particularly to under 18s.
"However, it is particularly disappointing that the Executive will now not be bringing forward legislation on smoking in cars in the envisaged timeframe, particularly as we see the ban coming into effect in England and Wales in October.
"Legislation is currently going through parliament in Scotland and was introduced in the Republic last year. Once again, Northern Ireland is lagging behind."
Northern Ireland is set to be included in plain packaging laws to be introduced by Westminster next year.
But Cancer Focus claimed Health Minister Simon Hamilton has confirmed that while it had been the intention to restrict smoking in cars carrying children under 18 years in the forthcoming Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, this will now not happen.
A Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) spokesperson said: "Protecting people, particularly children and young people, from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke is a key objective of the Department's 10 year tobacco control strategy.
"The draft Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is expected to be introduced in the Assembly in October, and there remains scope for provisions prohibiting smoking in cars carrying children to be included as the bill progresses through the Assembly."