A leading parenting website has welcomed a NI Executive consultation into smoking in private vehicles with children.
Earlier this week Health Minister Michelle O’Neill announced an eight-week consultation on regulations to restrict smoking in cars with kids inside.
The news was welcomed by mother of three Jill Harland, Northern Ireland editor of Netmums.com who said she wouldn’t be keen on her own children getting a lift with someone if she knew they smoked in the car.
She added: “Netmums is 100% behind this consultation and fully supports a ban of smoking to restrict smoking in private vehicles when children are present.
“We are also keen that parents/carers are educated about the dangers of smoking in a private vehicle whilst children are present too so that they can make better, more informed choices.
“We will be encouraging parents and care givers to take part in the consultation and share their views on the subject.”
The draft regulations propose that the existing legislation, as set out in the Smoking (Northern Ireland) Order 2006, will be extended so that it will be an offence to: smoke in a private vehicle with someone under 18 present; and to fail to prevent smoking in a private vehicle with someone under 18 present.
Currently a number of jurisdictions around the world have introduced restrictions on smoking in cars in recent years including states in Australia and the USA, Canada, Cyprus, Mauritius, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
A ban was also introduced in England and Wales from 1 October 2015 and in the south of Ireland from 1 January 2016. Scotland announced its intention to ban smoking in cars carrying children from 5 December 2016.
Minister O’Neill said: “The health impact of exposure to second-hand smoke has long been recognised and indeed was the motivating factor behind the introduction of legislation to ban smoking in all indoor public and work places in 2007.
“Children are more susceptible than adults to harm caused by others’ cigarette smoke as they have smaller lungs and less developed immune systems.
“It is inconceivable that we continue to allow children to be exposed to such harm while travelling within the confined space of a car. As a society we must take responsibility for the health and wellbeing of our children which is why we must tackle this issue and why I am keen to introduce legislation to help prevent this.”
According to a recent survey, 8% of adults who smoke permit smoking sometimes, or in some cars, whilst a further 4% allow smoking in all family cars.
The World Health Organisation recognises that second-hand smoke is a significant threat to health, particularly amongst children, who are more likely to suffer from range of illnesses including asthma, wheezing, middle ear infections, sudden unexpected death in infancy and invasive meningococcal disease as a result of regular exposure.
The consultation will seek views on the proposed new offences, and exemptions as well as views on how the new measures will be enforced.
The consultation will run from 6 January 2017 to 3 March 2017. The consultation document is available on the DoH website at: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/consultations