IPH welcome the opportunity to respond to the NI consultation on regulations to restrict smoking in private vehicles when children are present. The draft regulations proposed that the existing leglislation, as set out in the Smoking (Northern Ireland) Order 2006, will be extended so that it will be an offence to: smoke in a private vehicle with someone under 18 present; and to fail to prevent smoking in a private vehicle with someone under 18 present. Similar legislation was enacted in the Republic of Ireland in March 2016. The consultation sought views on the proposed new offences, and exemptions as well as views on how the new measures would be enforced.
IPH fully supports the introduction of regulations on smoking in private vehicles when children are present. IPH has a long history of supporting tobacco control policies across the island of Ireland through research, briefing papers, consultation responses and evidence submissions to government committees.
IPH response highlights the following:
• Frequency and intensity of SHS exposure
1. Research indicates that exposure to SHS is too high and not compatible with child health. This is significant in terms of respiratory outcomes among children, partularly in the context of inequalities in child health (see Q6 for further evidence on health inequalities). Evidence from across the UK would suggest that frequency of exposure to SHS is declining through stricter rules around smoking the car and home, but the rate of decline is still too slow and so regulations are needed to protect children from SHS exposure.
2. The CHETS (Child exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke) study (2015) examined changes in restrictions on smoking in homes and cars and children’s exposure to SHS in Wales. Surveys were conducted in 2007 and 2008 and again in 2014. Results showed that the percentage of children who reported that smoking was allowed in their family vehicle fell from 18% in 2008 to 9% in 2014. In the day prior to the survey, 4% of all children and 7% of children of smokers reported having been in a car where someone was smoking; this is half the rate in 2008.
3. It is 18 months since the introduction of the legislation in England Wales and therefore still too early to establish what impact the legislation has had in terms of children's exposure to SHS in cars and other settings such as the home
• Informing policy direction and de-normalising smoking
1. These regulations are important to the realisation of government policies on tobacco control in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The regulations also endorse broader policies on children’s health and wellbeing as well as supporting the overarching aim of Making Life Better which aims are to achieve better health and wellbeing for everyone and reduce inequalities in health. These regulations are of particular importance in denormalising and reducing smoking uptake as well as reducing SHS exposure.
2. The draft regulations on smoking in vehicles are an important part of denormalising smoking and reducing children’s exposure to second-hand smoke. In addition to offering protection to children, the regulations will also protect adult passengers, including vulnerable adults, older or disabled adults who share a car with child passengers and have few other travel options.
3. IPH believes these regulations are critical to protecting the health of children in Northern Ireland and to that end the regulations should be prioritised within a revised schedule of legislation for the Northern Ireland Assembly.
• Harmonisation of policy across the UK and Ireland
1. IPH believes the introduction of regulations to ban smoking in vehicles where children are present will harmonise the cross-border approach to tobacco control not just across the island of Ireland but within the rest of the UK. Legislation banning smoking in cars where children are present came into effect on the 1 October 2015 in England and Wales, followed by the Republic of Ireland on 1 January 2016. The implementation of legislation in the UK and Republic of Ireland will help achieve consistency in behaviour across the jurisdictions and in turn, should help achieve greater compliance with the law.
• Regarding the draft regulations
1. IPH welcomes the approach outlined in the regulations that make it an offence for a person to smoke in a private vehicle when there is more than one person present and there is a person under the age of 18 present. This is consistent with the legislation in England and Wales.
2. IPH supports the proposal that the regulations should apply to the person smoking regardless of their age. The draft regulations are an important extension of the smoke-free legislation for workplaces and the increasing number of voluntary smoke-free policies being introduced in health and social care, education, sport and recreational facilities.
3. It is essential that tobacco control policies and legislation seek to de-normalise smoking and the draft regulations further support these efforts. It will be particularly important to monitor and report on breaches of the regulations and the number of fixed penalty notices issued.
4. It will be important that the messages relating to the ban on smoking in cars where children are present are communicated clearly and effectively.
5. It will be important that any public awareness/ information campaigns relating to the regulations are well planned and executed to maximise media engagement and ensure accuracy of the message. IPH recognises that the role of the media on issues such as smoking in cars.
Download the full IPH response below: