Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill: Final Stage

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 6:45 pm on 15th March 2016.

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Photo of Jo-Anne Dobson Jo-Anne Dobson UUP 6:45 pm, 15th March 2016

I am pleased that the Bill has reached this stage. The Assembly has a relatively good record in adopting policies designed to assist people to give up smoking and to stop others taking up the habit in the first place. We need to remember just how damaging it is to a person's health. Every time a smoker has a cigarette, they inhale over 4,000 chemicals. For as long as it remains the greatest cause of preventable death and disease in Northern Ireland, the Assembly must continue to take a hands-on attitude to tackling smoking. Crucially, that includes preventing young people becoming addicted in the first place, and, therefore, I am pleased that today's Bill prohibits the sale of nicotine products to under-18s and from vending machines. Whilst e-cigarettes are leading to people coming off the traditional tobacco cigarette, insufficient research exists on their long-term health effects. The Assembly may need to revisit that in the next mandate.

The ban on smoking in cars carrying young people is another positive aspect of the Bill. Smoking causes harm not only to the individual but to those around them, particularly children, whose lungs are still developing. The toxic cocktail of chemicals that quickly builds up in cars should hopefully now occur even less.

I am hopeful that the human transplantation and organ donation aspect of the Bill will ensure that the passionate volunteers and charities who have promoted organ donation across Northern Ireland for many decades will no longer do so alone. I again urge that their involvement be central to any public awareness campaign to ensure that their considerable expertise and knowledge is utilised to the full.

Organ donation and transplantation affects so many families across Northern Ireland. Those of us in that organ donation family remain firmly committed to ensuring the promotion of and increase in life-saving transplants. The House is more than aware of the considerable public support for change that has been consistently identified. I again say that I do not wish this can to be kicked down the road, and, like my esteemed colleague Mr McCarthy, I, too, will be watching. I hope that the future Health Minister, whoever he or she may be, will ensure a consistent focus on increasing life-saving transplants and, indeed, will listen to the organ donation family, those who are closest to one of the most emotional issues that we can debate in the Chamber.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome the Bill and its passage today. The important outworkings for us all will come when the ink is dry.