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Children's health

11th Oct 2021

Calls for smoking with children in cars to be banned in Northern Ireland

Those in breach would be issued a fine or face court appearances.

Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann has laid out his intentions to ban smoking in cars when children are passengers.

Those caught smoking in a vehicle with a child present will face a £50 fine. Failure to pay fines could result in the matter being referred to court.

Announcing his plans on Sunday, the Minister said:

“The use of tobacco continues to be a primary cause of preventable ill health and premature death in Northern Ireland.

“It is vital that we maximise our efforts to reduce smoking prevalence and protect people, particularly children, from the effects of second-hand smoke.”

Smoking is already prohibited in certain vehicles – including public transportation and work vehicles with multiple occupants.

The proposed new laws would expand to private cars where children are present, when there are multiple people in the vehicle, and when the vehicle is enclosed.

“Children and young people are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke as they breathe more rapidly and inhale more pollutants per pound of body weight than adults,” said Mr. Swann.

“The Royal College of Physicians has reported that this can lead to increased risk of asthma, lower respiratory infections, middle ear disease, bronchitis, bacterial meningitis and sudden infant death syndrome, as well as reduced respiratory function.

“These planned regulations will play an important role in protecting children from the harms of nicotine addiction and tobacco use.”

Under the proposals, the sale of e-cigarettes to people under the age of 18 could also be made illegal. It will also be an offence to purchase such products on behalf of a child.

“Nicotine is highly addictive and, according to the World Health Organisation, exposure to nicotine whilst still in adolescence can lead to long-term consequences for brain development,” Mr. Swann said.

“In addition to the potential long-term health implications of e-cigarette use by teenagers, there are also concerns that they may act as a gateway into smoking.

“Youth smoking prevalence in Northern Ireland has been steadily decreasing in recent years, and I do not wish to see this trend reversed because young people, who may not have been induced initially to smoke tobacco, instead become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes.”

The Minister said he expected the regulations would be operational from early next year.