Wednesday 24 January 2018

New junior health minister: ‘I smoke 15-20 cigarettes a day but can’t commit to quitting'

Minister of State with responsibility for Disabilities:Finian McGrath Photo: Tom Burke
Minister of State with responsibility for Disabilities:Finian McGrath Photo: Tom Burke

Garreth Murphy and Catherine Devine

The new Super Junior Health Minister Finian McGrath has refused to confirm he will give up smoking cigarettes.

Mr McGrath revealed that he smokes “in the region of 15-20 cigarettes a day” but would not give any commitment to give up smoking.

Speaking to today at Beaumont Hospital, Mr McGrath said: "Please do not close down people having personal and private views in a democratic and inclusive society.

"Of course I’ll support the policy of the Government. I’d like to be allowed to express my own personal opinion.

“I put my hands up, I’m human and I’ve made mistakes. I’m addicted to nicotine, every day I try to give up the cigarettes but the bottom line is we need a new approach and listen to people who have a problem with smoking.”

McGrath said that 19 to 20pc of the public are smokers and are “fed-up being pushed around”.

“We need to look at our health policies and our addiction policies and listen to the people themselves," he added.

The new junior health minister has asked for more sympathy for smokers - and argues that pubs and bars should have designated indoor sections for smokers.

Mr McGrath also said the there shouldn't be further increases in tobacco duty.

Mr McGrath is a member of the Independent Alliance and was last week given ministerial responsibility for the disability sector, and will attend Cabinet meetings as a so-called "super junior".

Mr McGrath attempted to downplay his comments in the story yesterday.

"A lot of the story came from statements I made in the past and I emphasised that they were my personal views. As a Cabinet Minister, I totally support the health strategy for 2025 but I also defend the right of any citizen to have their own private views," he said speaking to RTE Radio One's Sean O'Rourke.

Read More: New junior health minister wants designated smoking areas in pubs and bars

When asked if he would lead by example and quit cigarettes, Mr McGrath said his responsibility was to “do my job to the best of my ability. But, of course, on a private level, I make an effort and that it is my position.”

He admitted smoking “in the region of 15-20. On good days, I get them down to seven or eight. I try to get them down to five. The reality is that we are not all super humans we all have frailties and we have to accept it."

In a statement today, the Irish Cancer Society called Minister McGrath's remarks "unhelpful and irresponsible".

In a statement, the Irish Cancer Society officially recorded its "concern at Minister of State Finian McGrath’s comments first published in the Sunday Business Post on the smoking ban and excise duty levied on tobacco products".

The Irish Cancer Society also said that "any roll back of the smoking ban would be a retrograde step".

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