Call to protect children from smoke
The Government has a duty of care to protect children from smoke in cars, it has been claimed.
Health Minister James Reilly said public debate was needed on proposals to ban smoking in cars carrying under-age children .
He maintained people will then see why officials are so concerned about youngsters in cars being exposed to second-hand smoke.
"It will damage their health, there's no question about that, and I think we have a duty of care to our children," he said. "This is not about a nanny state. This is about a duty of care to children."
Dr Reilly told delegates at a seminar - called A Tobacco Free Country - that exposure to second-hand smoke is a serious health hazard, especially for children.
"Even brief exposure can cause damage. Particularly in the enclosed space of a car," he continued. "The first step towards such a ban will be a public information and education campaign to mobilise public support in advance of the introduction of such legislation."
Dr Reilly said as a medic he has watched men and women suffer and die from cigarette smoking, and seen the billions spent by the tobacco industry to get young people hooked on smoking.
"This is an industry that seeks to addict a new generation of young people, having damaged or killed many of their parents," he said. "For the industry to simply maintain the size of its customer base in Ireland, it is estimated that more than 50 Irish children have to start smoking every day of the year."
John McCormack, of the Irish Cancer Society, said while Ireland is a world leader in anti-tobacco laws, the country's smoking rate remains high.
"It's now time to recognise and face up to the real challenge at the heart of smoking in Ireland: that it is linked, inextricably, with the inequalities in our society," he said. "And the cost - both in human health and to the taxpayer - is high and getting higher. It's time for a new approach."