Fionn (11) sought car smoking ban after gran died of cancer
Wexford schoolboy Fionn O'Callaghan felt so strongly about children having to endure toxic fumes from adults smoking in cars that he wrote to Taoiseach Enda Kenny four years ago.
He asked for a ban to be imposed on smoking in cars carrying children.
"I thought it was wrong because children could not speak up for themselves and tell adults to stop," he said.
His grandmother died of lung cancer and he was determined to try and spare others from being harmed by second-hand smoke.
Fionn (11) was Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Children's Minister James Reilly's guest of honour when they announced yesterday that the new law will come into effect on New Year's Day.
Adults who light up in cars where children are passengers will face a fine of €100.
Offenders will face a fine of up to €1,000 if they fail to stop or give a wrong name or address.
Dr Reilly said: "Recent research shows that many children are effectively trapped in cars and exposed to toxic and health damaging smoke.
"Even if windows of the car are open, the young person is not protected from the harmful effect of second-hand smoke. We all have a duty of care to our children and the prevention of damage to their lungs is a responsibility for us all."
Mr Varadkar warned that the recent Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Survey shows how widespread the practice was.
"Almost one in every five children is exposed to second-hand smoke in cars," he said.
"This measure can only improve the health of many children and I know it will be supported by the public.
"Children are more susceptible to the effects of second-hand smoke and may not be able to avoid exposure," Mr Varadkar continued.
"Second-hand smoke is particularly harmful to children in enclosed spaces, such as cars."
Senator John Crown, a cancer specialist who first introduced the legislation in the Seanad, said an "hour in a car with a smoker is equivalent to eight with a smoker in a pub or restaurant".
Ross Morgan, chairman of ASH Ireland, which was first to campaign for its introduction, said the release of toxic chemicals in such a restricted environment was very harmful to children.
Kathleen O'Meara of the Irish Cancer Society said they did not expect many prosecutions but the importance of the law was the message it would send out to people.
The law does not apply to electronic cigarettes but includes cigarettes, cigars and pipes.
The penalty of €100 is a fixed charge.
If it is not paid in 28 days, it increases to €150. If the fine is not paid within 56 days, a prosecution will follow.
Other offences include failure to stop the vehicle, refusing to give a name and address, or giving a false name.
Around one in five people in Ireland continues to smoke, figures show.