Early introduction of ban does little to reduce smoking rates


MORE PEOPLE continue to smoke in the Republic than in Northern Ireland, despite the earlier introduction of the smoking ban here, according to new research.

The One Island – One Lifestyle?report, which compares the health of individuals living on both sides of the Border, shows the introduction of the workplace smoking ban in the Republic in 2004 has done little to reduce overall smoking rates.

The study also reveals that despite having a reputation as a nation of drinkers, people in the South drink considerably less than their near neighbours.

The new report was produced by the division of Population Health Sciences at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) on behalf of the Department of Health and Children. It compares and contrasts two earlier studies, the Slán 2007 survey – carried out by a research consortium involving NUI Galway, the RCSI, the ESRI, and University College Cork – and the Northern Ireland Health and Social Wellbeing Survey (NIHSWS 2005), conducted by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

According to the study, the success of the Republic’s smoking ban has primarily been in reduced risks from passive smoking rather than in achieving a fall in overall smoking rates.

The latest survey shows that despite the introduction of the smoking ban, 29 per cent of people in the Republic were still smokers at the time of the Slán study compared with 26 per cent of smokers in the North where a similar ban came into effect in April 2007.

The effects of the workplace ban in the North have yet to be assessed, but the percentage of smokers there fell 6 per cent from 32 per cent in 2003 to 26 per cent in 2005.

When it comes to smoking cessation, the study shows that while more than half of smokers in the North had been warned to quit smoking by health professionals, only 34 per cent of their counterparts in the Republic were similarly advised.

“It’s disappointing that smoking levels haven’t shifted significantly in the Republic of Ireland since the ban came in,” Prof Hannah McGee, deputy director of research at the RCSI, told The Irish Times.

“We do know that cigarettes are relatively more expensive in Northern Ireland, with a packet costing the equivalent of one- and-a-half hour’s work compared to one hour in the Republic, so this may be one factor.

“The fact that GPs in the North are more likely to encourage people to stop smoking may also be significant,” she added.