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'We need to follow UK lead on car smoke ban'

IRELAND'S anti-smoking lobby has applauded the UK government for proposed legislation that could make it a criminal offence to smoke in cars when children are passengers.

ASH Ireland said a vote by MPs in the British parliament yesterday overwhelmingly in favour of banning smoking in cars in which children are present is a step forward in protecting them from dangerous second-hand smoke.

"ASH Ireland would welcome any initiative that protects children from the harmful effects of smoking," a spokesman told the Herald last night.


Citing a recent study in which one in seven children, or 14pc, are subjected to smoking by adults while passengers in cars, the anti-smoking advocate said it would like to see similar legislation adopted here.

"We first raised this with [former Health Minister] Mary Harney five years ago," he said.

"ASH raised this with Health Minister James Reilly when he was first elected and draft legislation was introduced by Senator John Crown," he said.

But the proposed bill, which was introduced in May, 2012, remains at the committee stage.

Sen Crown, an oncologist as well as politician, said during a debate on the issue in Seanad in December, that children's lives are being put at risk each day that the bill languishes in the Oireachtas.

"The exposure after one hour in a car with smokers is the same as that which a fire woman or fireman would experience in four to eight hours of fighting a bush fire," he told the Seanad in December, 2013.

Last night a spokesman for the Health Department said it had been working with the Justice Departmentto resolve legal issues relating to the bill. "Those issues include matters around the right to privacy and presumption of age," he said.

He added progress will now be made to "assist in the effectiveness of the bill".