The Department of Health has today launched a consultation which seeks the public’s feedback and views on strengthening smokefree legislation. Measures being considered include banning tobacco vending machines and making it illegal to smoke in vehicles transporting children aged under 16. The Department’s plans are at an early stage, with a questionnaire selected as the best method of gauging public opinion. In particular, these measures focus on options to enhance protection for young people from exposure to both secondhand smoke, and the visibility of tobacco products in retail environments.
Minister for Health, David Anderson MHK, said: “Since the introduction of the No-Smoking in Premises Regulations in 2008, the public’s exposure to unwanted secondhand smoke has been significantly reduced, with the ability to work in a smokefree environment enshrined in law. But health problems in relation to secondhand smoke persist, with children particularly at risk and often unable to request that smoking does not happen around them. There is clear evidence that exposure to secondhand smoke causes lung cancer and other serious respiratory diseases. In seeking the public’s views, this consultation will help to formulate future policy and legislation with a view to tackling underage smoking and addiction, as well as protecting the health of minors.”
Dr Paul Emerson, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, said: “This legislation could be an important step in protecting the health of our young people, and reducing the negative impact that tobacco has on the public’s health. Young people are much more susceptible to secondhand smoke for a number of reasons; for example, their immune systems are still developing. Only last week, new research on the dangers of smoking in cars – which can break the toxic limit even with windows fully open – received widespread national media attention. It has long been the Department’s and Government’s policy to promote healthy living – naturally this includes encouraging people to quit smoking; also, educating young people on the resultant harmful effects, so discouraging them from taking up tobacco smoking in the first place.
“The current legislation in place, whilst effective at creating smokefree working environments, is less focused on the visibility and availability of tobacco products in public areas, such as vending machines in pubs and shelving in newsagents. Despite our efforts, it is clearly still too easy for young people to obtain cigarettes and tobacco – a drug that, if discovered today, simply wouldn’t be legalised due to its significant health ramifications. That’s why we must continue to examine how we can reduce the uptake of smoking in young people not only to ensure that they can enjoy a healthier future, but also to reduce the need to treat disease caused by smoking.”
Dudley Butt MLC, Member for Health Services, said: “We need to be mindful of the majority of people’s desire not to be exposed to secondhand smoke and the harm it can cause, particularly in children. So many of the diseases and conditions we treat today are preventable. We need to do all we can to encourage people to live healthier lives in order to help prevent many illnesses which may cause long-term health complications and, as can sadly be the case with smoking, premature death. This approach lies at the heart of the Department’s Strategy for the Future of Health Services.
“I would encourage all sections of the community to get involved in the consultation. With free space for comments on ten key questions, the style of this questionnaire encourages people – whether they smoke or not – to be open and honest about their views on smoking around children, and their opinions on the availability of tobacco products. Whilst the Government’s duty to protect public health, as well as the scientific and medical evidence in relation to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, cannot be ignored; everyone’s opinion counts and everyone’s views are welcomed.”
The questionnaire can be completed online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/smokefreeconsultation. Copies of the consultation document are available online at www.gov.im/health/ConsultationDetail.gov?id=348, and will also be available from local Commissioners’ offices, libraries, GP Surgeries, Dental Practices, Opticians, the Tynwald Library, Post Office counters, and the Welcome Centre in the next few days. If you require any further copies please contact the Department by e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 685004.
The consultation period runs between 23 October and 7 December 2012.
For those who want to find out more about the support available to quit smoking, they can contact the Island’s Quit4You Service on 642404, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.quit4you.gov.im.