Northern Ireland

NI Assembly votes to ban smoking in cars with children

Smoker holding cigarette beside child in vehicle
Image caption The debate heard it is unlikely that smoking in vehicles carrying children will be banned until early 2017

Northern Ireland Assembly members have voted in favour of introducing a ban on smoking in vehicles when children are present.

They have also backed a move to consult on a proposed tax on sugary drinks.

The measures were proposed by Sinn Féin as part of amendments to the Health Bill which is making its way through the assembly.

Health Minister Simon Hamilton said any smoking law change would be unlikely to come into force before early next year.

He opposed the sugar tax, saying "any such tax would displace the problem rather than solve it".

The minister added that Stormont "may not have the powers to implement such a levy in Northern Ireland" but said he was seeking further advice on the issue.

'Reducing consumption'

Despite his remarks, the amendments both passed by oral votes in the chamber on Monday evening.

Sinn Féin's Rosie McCorley, who proposed the tax, said it would "benefit all members of society, young people in particular".

"Sinn Féin believe that a sensible way of reducing the consumption of sugary sweetened drinks is to raise the price, which is a tried and tested method, as seen with taxes on cigarettes and alcohol," she said.

She added that revenue raised by by the tax could be reinvested in other initiatives to improve health.

A ban on smoking in vehicles carrying children has been in force in England and Wales since October.

In the Republic of Ireland, a ban took effect on New Year's Day.

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) also supports a ban in Northern Ireland and its health spokesperson Fearghal McKinney proposed a similar amendment to that from Sinn Féin.

However, his amendment, which went further and asked for provision on public awareness campaigns, did not pass.

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