SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has backed plans to ban smoking in cars with children.
Regulations to make smoking with children in the car a punishable offence were introduced in the Assembly on Monday.
The regulations also include plans to ban the sale of products like e-cigarettes to under 18s.
South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:
“I’m glad to see this long-overdue legislation finally coming before the Assembly. We have long known about the dangers smoking and second-hand smoke pose to the public and it’s baffling that it has taken nearly 15 years since the smoking ban to introduce this legislation to protect children.
“We know that children and young people are more vulnerable to the effects of smoke inhalation as they are still growing and developing. Consistent exposure to second-hand smoke makes children more likely to develop respiratory conditions, infections and other serious health conditions, with babies, infants and younger children the most vulnerable. Exposure to second-hand smoke can lead to an increased risk of sudden and unexpected death in infancy and heart disease, cancer and strokes in later life. We need to do everything we can to discourage everyone, but particularly young people, to avoid the harmful effects of smoking.
“Banning smoking in cars will reduce the exposure of our children to second-hand smoke, particularly in enclosed spaces and will have significant health benefits. Smoking still contributes to thousands of deaths every year and is the single greatest cause of preventable illness and death in the North. There has been huge progress over the past twenty years, but we need to see further initiatives to lower the prevalence of smoking in our society to allow people to live long and healthy lives and reduce the pressure smoking and its effects has on our health service.”