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Northern Ireland smoking ban in cars needed now

By John McCallister

Published 03/11/2015

John McCallister
John McCallister

On October 1, 2015 a smoking ban to protect children came into force in England and Wales. It bans people from smoking in cars which have children in them. Health Minister Simon Hamilton said earlier this year that a similar ban would be introduced in Northern Ireland.

Yet now, without explanation, there appears to be no more plans to bring this legislation forward.

Smoking is bad for you and those around you - everybody knows that. What is not so well-known is that second-hand smoke is particularly toxic to children.

Children breathe faster than adults and, with their immune systems still developing, they are at a much higher risk of harm from smoke.

When this is combined with the second-hand smoke in a car, which is more than 10 times more concentrated then regular smoke, it leads to a very dangerous situation for children.

Some argue that bringing in the ban here will overstep the bounds of government, or that it will be unenforceable.

Banning smoking in cars is very similar to banning drink-driving; it is done for the benefit of the nation's health.

Just because the person who is being protected is often more closely related to the person perpetrating the danger does not make it any less right or important.

On the issue of enforcing the ban, watch England and Wales. It is a logical ban that will be easily complied with - very little enforcement will be necessary.

When and if the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is introduced to the Assembly I will bring an amendment forward that will seek to ban smoking in cars which have children in them.

As my wife and I are both working parents to three young children, I am aware of how much time they spend in the car with us on runs to school alone. If either my wife or I smoked the school run would present a much greater risk to my children's health.

These reasons are why it is so important to legislate so that all children in Northern Ireland have the basic right to be protected from the effects of cigarettes.

Ultimately, children who are in situations of highly concentrated toxic smoke deserve to be protected.

John McCallister is independent unionist MLA for South Down

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