Ban has no effect on smokers


THE SMOKING ban has not had any appreciable effect on the number of smokers in Ireland, the chief medical officer at the Department of Health has said.

At a forum on obesity yesterday, Dr Tony Holohan said smoking was still at the same level as it was before the introduction of the ban.

The smoking ban was introduced in March 2004 by then minister for health Micheál Martin. Its aim was to protect people from second-hand smoke but it had also been hoped that the ban would provide an incentive to help smokers quit.

This has not proven to be the case.

“We really haven’t shifted prevalence of smoking by any appreciable extent beyond what it was prior to the implementation of the ban; we are at about 28 to 30 per cent,” Dr Holohan said.

He told the “Innovations in Tackling Obesity” forum that the department was at an advanced stage of its tobacco policy review and would bring its results to Government.

He also said there was a need to look at the inter-relationship between different lifestyle factors, including tobacco use, alcohol consumption and obesity, and their effects on health.

“People who smoke just don’t smoke, they are also people who are overweight and they are also people who are high consumers of alcohol and we need to understand the interaction of those,” Dr Holohan said.

There was no point in sending out messages about tobacco one day, alcohol the next and obesity on the third day. “We need a much more integrated positive message in relation to health.

“It shouldn’t always be about ‘don’t do this’ and ‘don’t do that’.”

Dr Holohan also raised concerns about the marketing of food and unhealthy products to children.

He told the forum that if the issue of obesity was left to Minister for Health Dr James Reilly to solve, it would not be solved. “There is no way these complex, societal challenges which face all of us can be confronted unless we can find a way of working together,” he said.