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Smokers should not be demonised – Mulherin

Smokers should not be demonised – Mulherin

Michelle Mulherin says education better than legislation

Trevor Quinn

Deputy Michelle Mulherin has called on people to take ‘personal responsibility’ for their smoking, and she believes empowerment and education can be more effective than strict enforcement and shock tactics in encouraging smokers to quit.
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has said that he would like to ban smoking in cars when children are present, and has said that he hopes to bring forward legislation next year. While Dr Reilly believes it is ‘irresponsible’ for parents to smoke in cars if their children are in the vehicle, he has rejected the idea of imposing an outright ban.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin said she can see the benefits of this legislation but she added that we should not ‘demonise’ smokers.
“We should be proud of the groundbreaking way in which we led others when we brought in smoking legislation in to this country. However, there has to be a reality check. Smoking is legal, and the exchequer gets huge taxes from the sale of tobacco in this country. You can’t persecute people for smoking and then at the same time take all this money off them.”

Information overload
Deputy Mulherin said that she believes young people can be engaged, appealed to and reasoned with as opposed to imposing stringent legislative measures and shocking advertising campaigns. “I am not sure about photographs on cigarette packets. When I see television advertisements depicting road traffic accidents I tend to switch over. I believe many people shut down or are oblivious to them.
“I don’t know if we need to see cancerous lungs or organs on cigarette packets to know the effects that smoking has. In a sense it is information overload, and people don’t don’t like to look at that and many do not take it in.”
Former Mayo GAA team doctor Fergal Ruane says there are obvious reasons why smoking in cars with children can have adverse consequences.
Dr Ruane referred to a study by Castlebar-based consultant paediatrician Dr Gay Fox who investigated the effects of passive smoking in recent years. “He carried out tests after people had smoked in a kitchen in a house and he found that smoke and harmful chemicals could actually be detected throughout the rest of the house … When you bring it down a level to a car for example and enclose the space even further, it stands to reason that it can have serious ill effects.”
Deputy Mulherin concluded, “Progressive education in schools, in youth groups and by Foróige can make a difference. That is the approach which must be taken. She added, “If you want to smoke in your own car that’s fine but people shouldn’t smoke if children are present. Children don’t have a choice, we have a choice.”

Should smoking be banned in cars where children are present?
Trevor Quinn sought public opinion on the streets of Westport

Jackie Rowland - Belcarra, Castlebar
YES - “I don’t think it should be necessary to have a law. I think people should automatically not smoke in their cars. I don’t think we should have to legislate for it. But I suppose in the event that people do smoke in their cars in order to protect children that are under 16 there should be legislation.”

Terry Kavanagh - Glenhest, Newport
YES - “I think it’s a great idea because I think that obviously if smoking goes on in a car children are going to get habitual by seeing it, plus whatever they’re inhaling is an issue because the passive smoking is as dangerous as the real thing.”

Joe Mason, Dublin
YES - “Because it’s harmful for children to be passive smoking. That’s the only reason and it’s a good enough reason you know. It might help people who smoke to give them up themselves. I think it would take a law for some people to conform to it.”

Lily Mason, Dublin
YES - “I see drivers in Dublin smoking regularly with two and three children in the car. There’s an attitude out there that I can do what I like, it’s my car and they’re my kids, but that’s not right. I don’t agree with that. I would be very against smoking in cars because the children need to be thought of.”

Debbie Ellis, Norfolk, England

NO - “The Government should do an advertising campaign telling people that it’s not a good idea to smoke in cars with kids. I don’t like laws and laws, we’ve got enough of those and I think people will know what the right thing to do is.”

Jennifer Bright, Colorado, USA
NO - “While you should not smoke around children ever, I do not believe there should be a law about it. I do agree with educating people and appealing to people’s sense of responsibility though. I live in the United States of America where I really believe there are too many laws.”