Ireland moves closer to becoming a smoke-free country

82% of city and county councils have now banned smoking from children’s playgrounds, according to a new study

Smoking ban, cars, fines, health, smoking in cars, law, Leo Varadkar

A man holds a cigarette while at the wheel of a car | Image: Clive Gee / PA Archive/PA Images

A new report from The Institute of Public Health has found that 82% of local authorities have introduced smoke-free policies in children’s playgrounds.

‘Smoke-Free Spaces on the island of Ireland’ looks at the progress being made across the island of Ireland to develop tobacco-free workplaces, cars, health services and public places.

The data contained in the report shows a significant increase in the number and range of places implementing tobacco-free policies.

Speaking about the increase in city and county councils banning smoking, Director of Policy with the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, Dr Helen McAvoy said these latest developments will help to “reduce exposure to second hand smoke and to denormalise tobacco use for future generations”.

At present, all health service facilities in Northern Ireland and HSE acute hospitals in South have banned smoking on their campuses.

Almost 70% of primary care sites in the Republic of Ireland have also implemented a tobacco-free campus policy.

The Department of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs both recently adopted a smoke-free campus policy for their buildings and grounds.

Currently there is no particular legislation governing open spaces at sports stadiums, however, indoor areas would be classed as work-places and therefore come under the smoke-free workplace laws implemented in 2004.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Dr Helen McAvoy explained that several stadiums have introduced their own policies.

The Aviva Stadium, in Dublin and the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast are smoke-free, while there is a partial free policy within Croke Park.

All French stadiums being used in Euro 2016 are also smoke-free.

Smoking is banned in cars in Ireland | Image: StockImage

A new law prohibiting smoking in cars came into effect in the Republic of Ireland in January 2016.

Prior to the introduction of the legislation, 20% of children and young people aged 10-17 years were exposed to second-hand smoke in cars in 2014, with 16% saying that adults were allowed to smoke in the family car as long as the window was down.

Dr. Helen McAvoy hopes follow-up studies will show a decrease since the introduction of the new laws.

Who enforces the rules?

In terms of policing the laws surrounding smoke-free cars, Dr. McAvoy says Gardaí have a role in the enforcement as the offence comes with a fixed penalty fine.

“In regards to the playgrounds and sports stadia there is no particular role for enforcement,” she said, “but it becomes self-regulating over time the same as it has been in the workplace.”

“Studies in Northern Ireland show that up until very recently people are quite willing to challenge somebody if they find them smoking in a place where they’re not meant to.”