Action not hypocrisy needed on smoking
Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Cllr John O'Dowd MLA, has accused the NIO health minister Angela Smith of hypocrisy over her attitude towards the impact of smoking on public health.
"In the course of her announcement today, launching a twenty year strategy for health and social services in the Six Counties, Angela Smith stated that it was time to stop looking over one's shoulder and take action to protect the population from the effects of second-hand smoke. Such sentiments would
indeed be praiseworthy were it not for the fact that the minister herself is looking over her own shoulder towards her colleague John Reid in England.
"Her consultation proposals on this issue merely mirror a survey conducted in
England earlier this year. In a written response to me on this matter dated 28th October 2004, Angela Smith stated, "the governments proposals for addressing smoking in Public places will be set out in a white paper". She also added that it was intended to repeat that survey around the end of the year.
"The NIO health minister is clearly guilty of hypocrisy on this issue. On one hand, Angela Smith is clearly failing to grasp the urgent need for the introduction of proper preventative legislation by continuing to look over her shoulder at Downing Street's attitude, while on the other, she acknowledges that the evidence of health risks from second-hand smoke is incontrovertible and that exposure to second hand-smoke increases the chance of non-smokers contracting lung cancer and heart disease by 25%.
"Figures released yesterday detailing health inequalities in the North demonstrate quite conclusively that those living in deprived areas of the Six Counties are almost 60% more likely to contract lung cancer and will die earlier than those living in more affluent areas. This frightening statistic is a damning indictment of John Reid's infamous statement that smoking was one of the few pleasures, which unemployed and less well off people could afford - a tatement that Angela Smith has never publicly refuted. I am sure that many of these people would prefer to enjoy a full and healthy lifestyle with their families rather than face the prospect of contracting prolonged ill health or premature death.
"Rather than engage in a consultation exercise designed to postpone the inevitable, Angela Smith should act now and introduce a ban on smoking in the workplace and all enclosed public places immediately." ENDS