Mid Ulster school children have handed more than 5,000 signatures from pupils all over Northern Ireland to Health Minister Michelle O’Neill calling for the immediate introduction of regulations to ban smoking in cars carrying children.
Leading local charity Cancer Focus NI is at the forefront of campaigning for the ban. The petition was signed by members of Cancer Focus NI’s Smokebusters Club, Smokebusters is a schools’ smoking prevention programme funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA) and delivered by Cancer Focus NI which each year helps thousands of P6 and P7 pupils learn the skills they need to help them refuse that first cigarette.
Minister O’Neill chatted to the children from New Row Primary School, Castledawson about their attitudes to smoking and healthy living during her visit to New Row.
Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention at Cancer Focus NI, said: “We are pleased that the Minister took time out from her busy schedule to meet the children, listen to their views and accept their petition letters.
“The children are calling on the minister to quickly implement legislation to protect young people under the age of 18 from smoke in cars. We are delighted that so many children have signed a letter and have demonstrated their strong interest in creating smokefree environments both for themselves and for future generations.
“The aim of Cancer Focus NI’s cancer prevention and health promotion work in schools is to help young people lower their risk of cancer in later life. It is gratifying to see definitive evidence that this work is having such a positive and far-reaching effect.”
Minister O’Neill said: “We will only achieve a tobacco-free society if children and young people are equipped to resist efforts by the tobacco industry to recruit a new generation of smokers. Prevention programmes such as Smokebusters are invaluable and have no doubt contributed to the recent reductions in youth smoking prevalence.
“I would like to sincerely commend all the school children involved who have called for legislation to ban smoking in cars carrying children and I assure them that my Department is working to ensure that the necessary laws are in place at the earliest opportunity.”
If you are a smoker and would like more information and/or useful tips to stop smoking visit the PHA’s ‘Want 2 Stop’ website at www.want2stop.info where you can also order a free quit kit or get information on your local stop smoking support service.