Poll: Should smoking in cars carrying children be made illegal in Northern Ireland?
A public consultation has been opened over plans to ban smoking in cars carrying children.
Health Minister Michelle O'Neill called it "inconceivable" that young people should be exposed to the harmful effects of tobacco smoke.
Yesterday she announced an eight-week consultation on regulations that would restrict smoking in cars carrying youngsters.
Drivers who fail to prevent passengers smoking while someone aged under 18 is present could be criminalised if the proposals become law.
Ms O'Neill said the dangers of second-hand tobacco smoke were well known.
"Children are more susceptible than adults to harm caused by others' cigarette smoke as they have smaller lungs and less developed immune systems," the Health Minister added.
"It is inconceivable that we continue to allow children to be exposed to such harm while travelling within the confined space of a car."
The planned extension of existing legislation - the Smoking (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 - was welcomed by Gerry McElwee, the head of cancer prevention at Cancer Focus NI, who described the proposals as a "positive move in the right direction", but also claimed more needed to be done.
"In the near future we would also like to see smoking stubbed out wherever children play or learn, including playgrounds, public parks, zoos and theme parks," he said.
"We already know that children who regularly see adults smoke are much more likely to try smoking.
"We firmly believe that this move could help protect children's health and reduce their perception that smoking is normal behaviour."
Mr McElwee also said most smokers start while children, adding that Cancer Focus NI was working towards a tobacco-free Northern Ireland by 2035.
Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw welcomed the consultation. "Alliance committed to this in our manifesto, particularly on occasions where children are present, and we have pursued it strongly," she said.