Health Minister Michelle O’Neill has announced an eight-week consultation on regulations to restrict smoking in private vehicles when children are present.
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.
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.”
Continuing the Minister added: “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, eight per cent of adults who smoke permit smoking sometimes, or in some cars, whilst a further four per cent 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 January 6, 2017 to March 3, 2017.
The consultation document is available on the DoH website at: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/consultations