SOUTH Down UUP MLA John McCallister said he has been greatly encouraged by recent support for his plans to see smoking banned in cars/vehicles which carry children under 16 years.
Mr McCallister used his Facebook profile to gauge public reaction to the issue and said he was delighted at the overall level of public support for such a ban.
“Banning smoking in cars carrying children is something Action Cancer is pushing hard for and something I feel very strongly about.
“The damaging effects of second hand smoke are well documented and now recognised as a substantial public health hazard. As a result, since 2007, the population of Northern Ireland has enjoyed smoke-free public buildings and workplaces. However, despite legislation banning smoking in work vehicles, no legislation exists to protect children when travelling in a private vehicle.
“Action Cancer estimates that 13,500 children across Northern Ireland could be at risk.”
Mr McCallister stressed that children are one of the most vulnerable groups affected by passive smoking. “The effect of second hand smoke on a child’s metabolism can be attributed to doubling the risk of sudden infant death,wheezing and bacterial meningitis.
“In a confined space such as a car, smoking just one cigarette can put air quality into the ‘unhealthy’ category. That same cigarette will emit 50 times more fine particles into a car than those emitted by the car’s exhaust in the time it takes to smoke the cigarette.”
“The Facebook comments were particularly encouraging and most people support my views.
“It makes me very angry to see parents smoking in their cars, often with windows closed and young children in the back. These children have no voice, but I want to change that by banning smoking in cars.
“The next step is to push the Government to act on these great concerns. I have already stated that I am prepared to introduce a Private Members Bill to bring this into force, and if re-elected in May, I will leave no stone unturned in my quest to achieve that.
“Our children deserve only the best and I think we must work together to protect them at all costs,” he said.