A ban on smoking in cars where children are present has come into effect in the Republic of Ireland on New Year’s Day 2016. Myself, Independent Senators John Crown and Jillian Van Turnhout brought the legislation before the Seanad in a year ago but Gardaí were given time to work out how it would be enforced.
I believe in years to come, we will find it strange that this measure did not happen a long time ago as smoking causes more deaths than suicide, alcohol and cocaine, and children exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to have cancer in later life.
The proposal was supported by Government and was subsequently taken through the legislative process by Minister Reilly. Minister Varadkar signed the regulations after the completion of extensive preparatory work involving An Garda Síochána, the Department of Health and the Department of Justice & Equality.
When announcing the bill, Minister for Children James Reilly said:“It’s a child protection issue in many respects. It’s not about interfering with people’s rights to have a cigarette in the car if they are on their own or with an adult, but we must protect children. We have a duty of care,” he declared.
Though the law had been passed by the Dáil in December 2014, the regulations governing fixed penalty notices and the size of possible fines caused a delay in the laws coming into effect.
The offence will be enforced by the Gardaí and carries a fixed penalty of €100 with the option of tougher penalties of up to €1,000 for failing to stop or providing inaccurate details.
When a driver is observed by a Garda to be in breach of the law, the Garda may stop the vehicle and will issue a fixed charge notice for €100.
Non-payment of the fine within 28 days will lead to an increased fine. If still unpaid after 56 days, a prosecution will be initiated.
For a person who fails to stop their vehicle, fails to give an address or gives a false address, the fine upon prosecution can be up to €1,000.