Fifth year of smoking ban marked

 

COMPLIANCE WITH the workplace smoking ban increased to an all-time high of 97 per cent last year, the Office of Tobacco Control said yesterday as it marked the fifth anniversary of the ban.

A year after the ban was introduced, some 94 per cent of premises inspected were found to be obeying the new law.

The Vintners Federation of Ireland said the spirit of the legislation had been accepted by publicans and it was now time to review what constitutes an acceptable outdoor smoking area. Publicans can allow smoking in an outdoor area provided that not more than 50 per cent of the structure’s perimeter is covered by a wall, window, gate or other structure.

Federation chief executive Pádraig Cribben said there was some concern that inspectors could be “over-zealous” in checking measurements for smoking areas. He said there must be “a level of common sense” in how the rules and regulations were applied, given the very high level of compliance.

Some publicans did not have a suitable smoking area and smokers should not be forced to stand on the street in the pouring rain to have a cigarette, he said.

Mr Cribben said the smoking ban had had a significant impact on pub trade but it was just one of a number of factors. The introduction of random breath testing was another key factor.

This was echoed by Ballaghaderreen publican Andrew Durkin. “The smoking ban was just another nail in the coffin,” he said. “People’s habits have changed to a great extent.”

Durkins of Ballaghaderreen run a busy food business and also provide accommodation in a bid to compensate for the fall in alcohol sales. “You have to move with the times,” Mr Durkin said. “Food has overtaken the drink business. Ten or 15 years ago it would be 70/30 drink and food, now it’s the opposite.”

The bar workers union Mandate praised the success of the smoking ban and said it continued to have strong support from its members.

Office of Tobacco Control chief executive Éamonn Rossi said the focus must now shift to discouraging young people from taking up smoking.

Point-of-sale advertising of cigarettes in shops is due to be removed from July 1st. Branding backdrops, change mats on counters and the display of cigarettes in shops will all be banned under the legislation.

The National Youth Council of Ireland director Mary Cunningham said the advertising and display of tobacco products in the local shop made cigarettes part of children’s normal social environment.

“More than three-quarters of all smokers in Ireland start to smoke before they reach the age of 18,” Ms Cunningham said.