James Reilly: gardai won't have to police smoking ban in cars with children
Gardai will not have to enforce the planned smoking ban in cars with children, as the disapproving looks offenders will get from other drivers will be enough, Health Minister James Reilly claims.
He expects to bring forward the proposed legislation making it illegal for an adult to smoke if a child is on board in a matter of weeks.
Asked if overburdened gardai will have to police the ban, he said: "I have no doubt the gardai will be able to enforce it.
"But they won't have to themselves, because of peer pressure from other drivers who will look across and see a kid in a car and an adult smoking.
"People asked the same question about enforcement when the smoking ban was introduced to Irish pubs," he added.
"This is not about being a nanny state – it is about protecting children until they are old enough to make these decisions for themselves," he said.
The minister was speaking at a seminar in the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin to mark the tenth anniversary of the introduction of the indoor smoking ban in public places.
"Who can possibly stand over a situation where there is a three-year-old strapped into a car while there is an adult puffing away at the front? It is obscene," the minister said.
He said he expects the legislation to be ready in the next couple of weeks, and there have been difficulties drawing it up because so many government departments are involved.
"I am told by my department it is down to one last issue. There is a finer legal point the Attorney General is dealing with and I am sure they are nearly there."
The other legislation in preparation will impose plain packaging on all tobacco products, to make them less appealing to smokers. This could not be rushed, he said, because the tobacco industry was bound to mount challenges.
Questioned about electronic cigarettes, which contain nicotine but none of the cancer-causing substances in a regular cigarettes, Dr Reilly said he wanted to collect more evidence before deciding how to regulate them. Under-18s will be banned from using e-cigarettes, but he conceded that they have a role in helping people to quit.
Earlier, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, the Health Minister who introduced the ban, criticised the decision to subsume the Office of Tobacco Control into the HSE as part of a "quango cull". If Ireland was to meet its objective to be tobacco-free by 2025, with smoking rates reduced to just 5pc, it would be necessary to have a body with a single focus to drive forward the necessary measures, he said.
Meanwhile, John Mallon, spokesman for smokers' group Forest, said he was trying to give up the habit. He acknowledged the risks of smoking but said the proposed ban on smoking in cars with children was "heavy-handed and extremely patronising". "The overwhelming majority of parents who smoke wouldn't dream of lighting up in a car carrying a child so why do we need a law that will have almost no impact?" he asked.