Speaking at the event the South Belfast MLA, who chairs the All-Party Group on Cancer at Stormont, said: “I fully endorse this vision and strategy to reduce smoking prevalence to below 5% by 2035.
“We should not underestimate the benefits of attaining this goal. Smoking is associated with poor air quality, with numerous cancers, with greater risk of heart disease, and with poorer health outcomes.
“I share a desire to see the actions in the strategy which fall within the Executive’s remit implemented swiftly, including a new Tobacco Control Strategy, legislation around the sale of vapes and similar products, licensing of retailers, more wide-ranging smoke-free environments, and improved enforcement alongside campaigns to raise awareness of how and why to quit smoking.
“The Health Service needs to stop seeing interventions, such as programmes aimed at helping people quit, as ‘low-hanging fruit’ when it comes to budget cuts. These are essential preventative steps towards a population which is healthier and a health service which is under less strain in the future.
“I very much hope we will have an Executive functioning soon to put in place the appropriate policies and legislation.”