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Stormont backs ban on smoking in cars when accompanied by children

By Allan Preston

Published 23/02/2016

Assembly members have voted in favour of introducing a ban on smoking in cars carrying children and a tax on sugary drinks
Assembly members have voted in favour of introducing a ban on smoking in cars carrying children and a tax on sugary drinks

Assembly members have voted in favour of introducing a ban on smoking in cars carrying children and a tax on sugary drinks.

The proposals were made by Sinn Fein as amendments to the Health Bill currently progressing through Stormont.

Health Minister Simon Hamilton said he supported the smoking ban but did not expect it to become law until early 2017.

He declined, however, to support the sugar levy, saying "any such tax would displace the problem rather than solve it".

If the new ban on smoking in vehicles carrying children becomes law, Northern Ireland would follow England, Wales and the Republic, which have all made the change.

There are also plans in Scotland to legislate on the matter this year.

Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay welcomed the vote saying there had been "high compliance" with previous changes to the law on smoking and argued that "children exposed to second-hand smoke in vehicles are at a greater risk of asthma and of taking up smoking in adolescence".

A further amendment on the smoking laws from the SDLP's health spokesperson Fearghal McKinney failed to pass.

The party's deputy leader had wanted a public awareness campaign to be included in the legislation.

During the debate, Sinn Fein's Rosie McCorley said the sensible way to reduce sugar consumption "is to raise the price, which is a tried and tested method, as seen with taxes on cigarettes and alcohol".

But the DUP's Alastair Ross said that amounted to a tax on the poor.

The Health Minister said he would be "seeking further advice on the issue which will remain critical to the debate".

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