Varadkar & Reilly announce start date for smoking ban in cars where children are present

Minister Varadkar with 11 year old Fionn O'Callaghan who wrote to the Taoiseach asking for smoking in vehicles to be banned.

Minister Varadkar with 11 year old Fionn O’Callaghan who wrote to the Taoiseach asking for smoking in vehicles to be banned.

Law comes into effect on New Year’s Day 2016

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr James Reilly have announced that a ban on smoking in cars where children are present will come into effect on New Year’s Day.

The regulation was signed into law this week under the Protection of Children’s Health (Tobacco Smoke in Mechanically Propelled Vehicles) Act 2014, and will take effect from January 1st 2016. From that date it will be an offence for anyone to smoke a tobacco product in a vehicle where a child is present, or to allow someone else to smoke in the vehicle. The offence will be enforced by the Gardaí and carries a fixed penalty of €100 with the option of tougher penalties of up to €1,000.

Ministers Reilly and Varadkar were joined by 11 year old Fionn O’Callaghan from Wexford who contacted the Government to express his own concerns about the dangers of tobacco smoke in cars.

Minister Varadkar said: “I am delighted to be in a position to sign this measure into law. The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Survey indicates that almost one in every five children is exposed to second hand smoke in cars. This measure can only improve the health of many children and I know it will be supported by the public.”

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Minister Reilly said: “Recent research shows that many children are effectively trapped in cars and exposed to toxic and health damaging smoke. We all have a duty of care to our children and the prevention of damage to their lungs is a responsibility for us all.”

The relevant legislation was first introduced into the Houses of the Oireachtas by Senators John Crowne, Jillian van Turnhout and Mark Daly. It was supported by Government and was subsequently taken through the legislative process by Minister Reilly. Minister Varadkar signed the regulations after the completion of extensive preparatory work involving An Garda Síochána, the Department of Health and the Department of Justice & Equality.

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Minister Reilly said: “The Irish Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Study 2014 found that nearly one in every five children between the ages of 10 and 17 years are exposed to toxic, carcinogenic smoke smoke in cars. Even if windows of the car are open the young person is not protected from the harmful effect of second hand smoke. As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs I welcome the signing of these regulations by Minister Varadkar. It is a central part of the Tobacco Free Ireland policy that we de-normalise smoking for young people.”

Minister Varadkar said: “Children are more susceptible to the effects of second hand smoke and may not be able to avoid exposure. Second hand smoke is particularly harmful to children in enclosed spaces, such as cars. I want to thank the Senators who first introduced this legislation, Minister Reilly who sought Government support for it, and the many NGOs who also actively supported its passage through the Oireachtas. I also want to pay tribute to Fionn O’Callaghan who brought his unique perspective as a child to this crucial issue and can certainly take credit for this measure.”

NOTE TO EDITORS

When a driver is observed by a Garda to be in breach of the law, the Garda may stop the vehicle and will issue a fixed charge notice for €100. Non-payment of the fine within 28 days will lead to an increased fine. If still unpaid after 56 days, a prosecution will be initiated.
For a person who fails to stop their vehicle, fails to give an address or gives a false address, the fine upon prosecution can be up to €1,000.

A Frequently Asked Questions document explaining the detail of the legislation, as well as the legislation, is available on the Department of Health’s website: www.health.gov.ie/smoking_in_cars.

A further educational campaign on the new legislation will begin in January 2016.

Operation of the Legislation
A tobacco product includes cigarettes, cigars and pipes but does not include the vaping of electronic cigarettes.
Under the legislation the driver of the vehicle is responsible for ensuring that if there is someone in the vehicle who is under the age of 18 that:
(a) he/she does not smoke, and
(b) he/she does not allow other people to smoke in your vehicle.
A passenger is not allowed to smoke in the vehicle if there is someone in that vehicle who is under the age of 18.
An Garda Síochána will be responsible for enforcement of the legislation. Under the legislation if a member of An Garda Síochána suspects that a person is in contravention of the legislation, they will require that person to stop the vehicle and will request the person’s name and address. An Garda Síochána will issue a fixed charge notice. The amount of that fixed charge is €100. The person will have 28 days to pay that amount. If they do not pay within the 28 days, the amount payable will increase to €150 to be paid in a further 28 day period. If they do not pay any fine within the 56 days then a prosecution will be initiated.
There are other offences in the Act namely: – If you fail to stop a vehicle, fail or refuse to give your name and address or give a name and address that is false or misleading then an offence will be committed. If found guilty of these offences a person shall be liable on summary conviction to a Class D fine i.e. liable to a fine not exceeding €1,000 upon conviction.