Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Protecting children from smoking's ills

Northern Ireland has been at the forefront of anti-smoking initiatives such as banning the weed in pubs and workplaces, and now it proposes to take its campaign one step further.

Ulster Unionist health spokesman John McCallister will bring a motion before the Stormont Assembly today outlining a ban on smoking in vehicles which contain children under the age of 16 years. A similar proposal is being considered in the Republic.

Some people might argue that this ban is an infringement of personal rights; that a person should be allowed to smoke in their own car just as they are allowed to smoke in their own home.

But it is not just the rights of adults which need to be considered - they, after all, are presumed sensible enough to make their own judgement on whether to smoke or not. The rights of children also need to be taken into consideration, right from babyhood until the mid-teens.

They may not ever want to smoke but being in a car with a smoking adult is similar in effect to lighting up themselves.

Secondary smoking is known to be dangerous, hence the ban on smoking in public places and at work, and it makes sense to extend this ban to the one enclosed place where children are likely to be exposed to smoking and its ill-effects. Strapped into a car there is no escape from the smoke of cigarettes.

Whatever anyone's choice about smoking, everyone agrees that it is a dangerous and potentially lethal habit, responsible for an estimated five million deaths worldwide every year.

Driving is also potentially lethal, but much effort has been put into making vehicles safer and getting drivers and passengers to strap themselves in securely. It would therefore be illogical to expose young children in a vehicle to dangers over which they have no control. Stamping out smoking in cars with children is a sensible step and should be supported by MLAs.

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