LUNG health has long been recognised as a key indicator of well-being and life expectancy.
As head of the British Lung Foundation (Scotland and Northern Ireland), I'm well-placed to view the lung health of both nations. Sadly, we share a common history characterised by some of the highest incidences of lung disease in the developed world.
There are many causal factors, but our reliance on heavy industries, our damp climate and our liking for tobacco stand out as the principal factors.
We are fortunate to benefit from the care and diligence provided by dedicated experts in the respiratory field, but they will be the first to tell you that lungs are easy to break and difficult to fix.
The real breakthrough is to be found in the prevention of widespread lung disease in the children of today as they become the next generation of adults.
Australia has led the way with the banning of smoking in cars where children are present.
It's also introduced plain packaging, thereby removing the tobacco industry's most significant mechanism for encouraging young people to take up the habit.
The Scottish government has committed to following Australia's lead on packaging next year and its parliament may also legislate on smoking in cars in 2014.
Let's work together to make sure that the children and young people of Northern Ireland are given the same protection as their counterparts in Scotland.
British Lung Foundation