Ballymena people caught lighting up in smoke-free workplaces or work vehicles may soon have the choice of trying to quit the habit rather than fork out for a fine of up to £50.
Currently, smokers detected in breach of The Smoking (NI) Order by puffing in their places or vehicles of employment face a fixed penalty of £50, which is reduced to £30 if paid within 15 days.
Eighty-two fixed penalty notices have been issued by the Council since 2010, 21 of which were issued this year to-date.
However, a Council committee was told last Thursday night of a potential pilot scheme proposing a 28-day smoking cessation programme as an alternative.
If, councillors were told, the individual could provide evidence after 28 days that they had signed up to a cessation service and the provider could confirm they had successfully quit through carbon monoxide validation, the fixed penalty notice would then be cancelled.
In her report, Council Officer Nicola McCall, said: “It is hoped that by offering an alternative to fixed penalty notices some individuals who have considered quitting will take the opportunity provided by such a scheme and sign up to a smoking cessation service. In general, 50% of people who sign up to such a service quit after 28 days.”
Councillors went on to unanimously approve her recommendation to develop and implement the scheme and this will go before the January monthly meeting of Council for ratification.
Cllr Beth Adger commented: “Parents smoking in cars when children are in the back should be looked into. To me that’s more dangerous than adults in a minibus or something smoking.”