Sunday 26 October 2014

Smoking ban moves to outside schools, creches

Beaches and parks are next in Reilly's 'war on tobacco'

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

Published 29/07/2013 | 04:00

Picture posed. PA

School campuses and creche grounds are set to become smoke-free areas under a raft of new measures designed to make Ireland tobacco-free.

Health Minister James Reilly plans to step up his war on smoking by recommending local authorities introduce smoking bans at beaches and parks, as well as by bringing in laws on the sale of tobacco and by appointing an anti-smoking czar.

Under the strategy teachers or childcare workers will no longer be able to step outside to have a cigarette.

Instead, they will be forced to smoke well away from their schools and creche buildings – and away from the view of impressionable children and teenagers.

The aim is to make smoking less normal in the eyes of younger people and ensure it is not seen as an easy or attractive habit.

The proposals are part of a strategy to be launched by Dr Reilly in September – 'Tobacco-Free Ireland' – which aims to rid Ireland of cigarette smoking by 2025.

It will include measures like:

* Banning smoking on or around secondary school campuses, even outdoors.

* Banning smoking on and around the grounds of childcare facilities.

* Encouraging local authorities to introduce by-laws banning smoking on beaches and in parks, as has already been implemented by some councils such as Fingal.

* Banning anyone under the age of 18 from selling tobacco in shops, pubs, supermarkets or anywhere else.

* Beefing up the Office of Tobacco Control within the Department of Health and appointing an anti-smoking czar to co-ordinate efforts across state organisations to get people to give up smoking.

The sanctions for breaking the proposed new bans are not yet clear, and the exact timetable for their introduction has also to be decided.

However, any person found guilty of breaching the existing smoking ban could be hit with a fine of as much as €3,000 and the new bans could come with similar penalties.

It comes as a report from the UK-based Institute of Economic Affairs said the introduction of a workplace smoking ban in 2000 had done little to curb smoking rates.

Some 29pc of the population smoke – one of the highest rates in Europe, it said. This is despite smokers being forced to pay the highest price for cigarettes, averaging €9.40 a pack.

"Ireland is, in many respects, the poster boy for tobacco control. It was the first country in the world to ban smoking in enclosed public places.

"Ireland and the UK – exemplars of the orthodox tobacco control model – have unimpressive smoking and lung cancer rates, as well as being home to western Europe's largest black markets in tobacco," it said.

The strategy is likely to come in for criticism from those who say smokers are already unfairly treated, and it is also likely to face massive opposition from the tobacco industry.

"There will be an agreed timeframe for the recommendations," a source said.

It would also follow the plain packaging of cigarettes, which is already being rolled out.

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The strategy is part of efforts to "de-normalise" smoking for younger people in particular.

It is hoped that if smoking can be seen as unattractive for younger people it will also be seen as a habit that is expensive and impractical.

Legislation will be "developed and introduced" to give effect to the new bans, while councils will also be encouraged to extend the by-laws affecting beaches and parks.

Unlike the bans in secondary schools, childcare facilities and the ban on those under 18 selling tobacco – which will need legislation – parks and beaches come under the remit of local authorities.

It is understood primary schools will also be included in the proposed ban, although they are not explicitly mentioned in the proposals.

Schools and childcare buildings are already subject to the smoking ban, but the new measures will extend this to include the entire school and childcare campuses – effectively anything outdoors and in associated facilities.

The departments of Education and Environment will also be involved in rolling out the strategy.

As well as targeting younger people, a new "lead co-ordinator for cessation services" will also be appointed in the Office of Tobacco Control, which operates within the Department of Health and Chief Medical Officer.

Irish Independent

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