Friday 21 October 2016

Smoking ban has saved 3,726 lives - now that's real progress

Published 25/05/2016 | 02:30

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

We at the Irish Cancer Society would like to thank David Quinn for his contribution to the debate on tobacco control (Irish Independent, Friday, May 20).

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Firstly, we wish to thank him for  noting the dangers of second-hand smoking, which are classified by the International Agency For Research On Cancer (IARC) as class 1 carcinogens, along with asbestos and plutonium; and, secondly, for detailing the many public health measures that have encouraged smokers (63pc of whom want to stop) to quit, have reduced smoking rates to an all-time low of 19.5pc among adults and 8pc among children, have stopped young people smoking before they started, and have saved thousands of lives.

We're sure he forgot to mention the extra 3,726 people still alive precisely because of the smoking ban.

Instead, Mr Quinn surmises, without evidence, that in spite of the obvious progress in recent years, we ought to have designated smoking areas in restaurants and pubs. Mr Quinn attempts to argue for the economic benefits of smoking, and does get it half-right.

Revenue takes in €1bn per annum from tax on tobacco products, not €2bn. His lethargic and meandering sermon against "neo-puritanism" neglects to mention that each year smoking costs €506m to the healthcare system, over €1bn in lost productivity, and €6m in damages from fires caused by smoking

This is before mentioning the 5,950 deaths caused by smoking each year, the 31,150 inpatient admissions and 300,000 bed days in hospitals given over to smoking-related conditions.

Donal Buggy

Head of Services and Advocacy Irish Cancer Society

Age and childcare

Sometimes one reads something and the brain screams, 'Unbelievable!' Such surely was the case for many people when they read reports in many media outlets that a child has been removed, by a Tusla decision, from their grandparents because they are in their 60s. This is ageism.

Furthermore, when one considers that the current Taoiseach is in his 60s and the current Finance Minister is in his 70s - just to mention two public figures with heavy workloads - then are we led to believe that a precedent has been set for their immediate removal from office.

When one considers that the people involved are grandparents and are therefore already adept in child-rearing, having, one presumes, reared the parent of the child in question, then no case can be made for 'inexperience'. Neither has any criminal activity been alleged, so the decision is indeed 'unbelievable'.

Have we returned to the dark days of even darker forces treating the nation's children like possessions to be traded and thrown around with impunity?

Let us hope not, because that is something that should not be tolerated in the modern age.

Dermot Ryan

Athenry, Co Galway

On hearing the Tusla decision to remove a primary school child from the grandparents, children from other countries must feel so thankful that they are in a place where common sense prevails.

A lot of children in other countries are cared for by grandparents because of the death of their parents. Age is not an issue in Africa, for example, but the care of the children and the love and respect that grandparents provide for them is.

There are many cases of grandparents caring for their grandchildren here in Ireland, not only daily for several hours while parents are at work but at weekends as well, when parents decide they also need to socialise and grandchildren stay the night.

What is the difference between those grandparents all over Ireland and this couple, who had a grandchild removed due to their age?

The only benefit in this decision is for the grandparents who do not want to mind their grandchildren, and can show this age rule now to their own children!

Marlyn McCarthy

Co Kerry

Rise of the far right in Europe

The overwhelming sense of relief being expressed across Europe's established political, social and religious establishment at the failure of Norbert Hofer, the leader of Austria's far-right Freedom Party, to win his country's presidential election seems at best a temporary moment of respite, given half of the voting populace expressed their preference for him.

It is far too simplistic to generalise - as the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has done - and say Austrians have rejected "populism and extremism [and that] everyone in Europe should learn from this". This is clearly an expression of hope rather than reality, a position reinforced by the inexorable ascent of ultra-nationalist parties like France's Front National and Germany's Alternative for Deutschland (Afd), not forgetting the recent success of the Scandinavian and Slavic ultra-nationalists.

The reality is that mass migrations from the Middle East, Africa and Asia have completely broken a post-WWII social and cultural template of Caucasian, Christian European hegemony.

This fracture has facilitated extremism on both sides of the ideological spectrum; a scenario that, in many respects, replicates the continent-wide political and social forces of a pre-war Europe that was polarised by hatred of the 'other'.

This has led to the targeting of existing minorities, whose forebears have been established in Europe for generations.

Consequently, examples of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have become the norm in our daily reality, a fact that the Garda Racial Intercultural and Diversity Office under the stalwart stewardship of Sergeant Dave McInerney, could confirm for any interested party.

Sadly, therefore, I strongly suspect that, like Valls, the overwhelmingly positive statement by Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, "that Europe is beginning to realise hate and fear politics are not the answer to the many challenges we are facing as a continent", is one of naïve hope, rather than a realistic appraisal of the insidious and inexorable rise of a continent-wide wave of ultra-nationalist sentiment.

Dr Kevin McCarthy

Kinsale, Co Cork

Irish Independent

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