Cork-based pro-smoking campaigner John Mallon has branded plans to ban smoking in parks and on beaches as “stupid, silly and unnecessary”, with potential to make smoking more attractive to young people.
Health Minister James Reilly this week lambasted the “evil” cigarette industry for making successive generations tobacco addicts, and outlined plans to ban smoking in parks and beaches in a bid to protect children.
However Mr Mallon, spokesman for Forest (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco) Éireann, said the Health Minister’s plans, and a proposal to ban smoking in cars, were “heavy-handed”, and “not evidence-based, but preference-based”.
“Before the workplace ban was introduced, we had argued for smoking areas indoors, but that was disregarded in favour of moving smokers outdoors, on the basis of evidence that smoking outdoors would not cause harm to non-smokers,” he explained.
“But now we’re into the area of preference-based legislation, laws based on ‘I don’t like that’. So where does it go next? Is the sight of an obese person going to send a message that it’s okay to be overweight, and will there be laws for that too?” Mr Mallon added.
Mr Mallon said he was surprised at the level of support he had received from non-smokers who have heard him speaking on radio about the issue in recent days.
“They’re not supporting me in my preference for smoking, but on the basis of my opposition to these stupid, silly and unnecessary proposed laws. We live in a democracy. I take the view that people should not smoke in cars where children are present; full stop. It’s a question of common sense. It doesn’t require legislation,” Mr Mallon said.
“I’ve no doubt that the support I’ve received from non-smokers is anti- Government sentiment, but really, Minister Reilly should be focusing on addressing issues such as trolleys in hospitals, and more pressing issues than this,” he added.
Mr Mallon also feared that an “unfortunate by-product” of the Government’s stance would be to “drive smokers further underground” and make smoking more seductive to younger children, especially at a time when globally, “there are more ex-smokers than there are smokers”.