Drivers of work vehicles worst `smoke-free` offenders
30 April 2012
Five years after Northern Ireland went smoke-free, drivers of work vehicles are still the biggest culprits when it comes to flouting the law, it has been revealed.
Monday April 30 is the fifth anniversary of the Smoking (NI) Order which came into effect on 30 April, 2007, banning smoking in the workplace and substantially closed public spaces, as well as in vehicles used for the purposes of work and for transporting the public – i.e. taxis, buses, vans, lorries etc.
But while pubs and restaurants across Northern Ireland have shown a 98 per cent compliance rate with the legislation, some smokers are ignoring the law and lighting up behind the wheel while driving a work vehicle.
The statistics have been compiled by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. A Tobacco Task Group was set up in 2006 with a representative from Belfast City Council and each of the north, south, east and west council areas to ensure a consistent approach to tobacco enforcement across Northern Ireland.
Diane Herron, Secretary of the Tobacco Task Group said: “The introduction of the smoke-free legislation has been very successful, certainly from a compliance point of view. However what we have found is that some people still think nothing of smoking in their work vehicle, even though this is against the law.
“In the last nine months of 2011, there were 533 fines and 16 prosecutions for lighting up behind the wheel but unfortunately we suspect the figures to be higher.
“We carried out two vehicle surveys across Northern Ireland in 2010 and 2011 to try to get a feel for how big the problem really was. In the 57,000 work vehicles we surveyed, more than 1,800 people were spotted smoking. With this being the fifth anniversary of the smoke-free legislation, we`re hoping to raise awareness around this issue and remind drivers that they will be fined £50 if they`re caught smoking behind the wheel of a work vehicle.”
Other statistics show that from April 2011 - December 2011, one person was prosecuted for smoking in smoke-free premises and eight people were prosecuted for failing to prevent smoking in smoke-free premises across Northern Ireland.
Staff from Belfast City Council and their colleagues from the other 25 district councils are planning some work to try to reduce the number of people who smoke while driving a work vehicle, and to raise awareness about this aspect of the legislation, including visiting large transport hauliers across Northern Ireland.
For more information on the smoke-free legislation visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/smokefree
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