Tuesday 19 September 2017

EXCLUSIVE: Zero people fined for smoking in cars with children one year on from law

Supporters of the legislation have welcomed the low enforcement rates

Former ministers for Health and Children, Leo Varadkar and James Reilly, sign the order banning smoking in cars with children, in December 2015 Picture: Tom Burke
Former ministers for Health and Children, Leo Varadkar and James Reilly, sign the order banning smoking in cars with children, in December 2015 Picture: Tom Burke
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

No fines have been handed down to people for smoking in cars, 12 months after a law came into effect banning the dangerous practise.

It became illegal to smoke in cars with children present on New Year’s Day 2016.

However, figures revealed to Independent.ie by gardai show that no fixed charge notices, which are set at €100, have been handed down to drivers.

Prior to the introduction of the law a survey indicated that almost one in five children are exposed to smoke in cars.

A garda association warned at the time that the law was going to be difficult to enforce and could damage the relationship between gardai and members of the public.

Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) deputy general secretary John Jacob said gardai would most likely enforce the legislation “passively”.

“I’d say – like seatbelt enforcement – what will happen is that if a checkpoint is running and someone drives up smoking with a child in the car, it will be addressed on the spot. It will have to be a similar approach with this as it won’t work otherwise,” he said at the time.

In the UK police have criticised similar laws as “unenforceable”.

However, former Senator and oncologist John Crown, who drew up the legislation, said that the fact there were no fines for the offence was “wonderful news”.

“It’s really fantastic. The purpose of the legislation was not to make money from prosecutions but to encourage education and create a bit of debate,” he told Independent.ie.

Before the law was on the cards he said there had been little discussion about the fact that it was a “very dangerous thing to do”. 

Professor Crown dismissed the idea that the number of fines was zero because the law was difficult to enforce.

“I’ve said repeatedly that the primary purpose of the legislation was to educate," he said.

He said gardai were sure to be “enthusiastic” in enforcing all laws of the land.

The Garda press office declined to comment further on the figure.

The Department of Health pointed to the awareness campaign it ran when the law was first introduced when asked about the low enforcement figures.

"The legislation was developed in consultation with the Department of Justice and An Garda Siochána.

"Enforcement is a matter for An Garda Siochana, however, the existence of the legislation and awareness of it sends a strong message to people that smoking in cars with children present is no longer acceptable. As with other smoke-free legislation, high levels of compliance are expected that will continue to grow," a spokesman said.

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