Commenting on the Health Minister’s plans to tackle smoking harms, Dr Paul Darragh, member of BMA’s Board of Science, said: “BMA has consistently campaigned for steps to reduce the harm caused by smoking and by exposure to second hand smoke so we welcome these plans announced by the Health Minister. Extending the current regulations to include a ban on smoking in cars when children are present will bring us into line with the rest of the UK and is a step in the right direction.
“Although there is thankfully a long-term decline in overall smoking prevalence, it still remains a leading cause of preventable illness and premature death across the UK and we as doctors witness first-hand the devastating effects of smoking on our patients,” continued Dr Darragh.
“We also welcome that the Tobacco Control Strategy has been extended to allow time to examine and address the ‘inequalities evident in tobacco use and the associated health outcomes’. The Department’s own Health Inequalities Annual Report 2021 published back in April outlined that respiratory deaths among under-75s in the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland are three and a half times that in the least deprived, while smoking during pregnancy is almost five times higher in more deprived areas. These are worrying statistics and the real people behind these stats make up the majority of patients we treat daily. The plans announced today by Health Minister will hopefully go some way to addressing this and it must also go hand-in-hand with targeted support for those who want to address their smoking habits.”