Martin warns of total ban on smoking in public places


The Minister for Health, Mr Martin, has signalled that a total ban on smoking in public may be on the way.

Speaking in Cork yesterday, the Minister said the 7,000 cancer-related deaths in Ireland each year were unacceptable. Of that number, some 2,000 were caused by lung cancer.

"We have to get serious in this country about smoking if the incidence of deaths caused by smoking is to be reduced. We want to get the people with us on this. I know that people who go out for a drink in the evening are often quite fed up when they come home with their clothes reeking of smoke. It is vital now to consider the health implications of passive smoking."

Mr Martin said it was inevitable that at some stage, a total ban on smoking in public places would be considered by the Government, but that was for another day. In the meantime, the plan was to introduce a comprehensive ban on smoking in public areas such as airports, buses and trains. The ban would include the workplace and would extend the existing partial ban in restaurants.

Legislation would be published later next month, Mr Martin said, but it would probably take until Christmas before both Houses of the Oireachtas had dealt with it.

After that, the regulations specifying the areas to which the new legislation applied would be published. The Government's aim, he added, was to bring forward legislation that would withstand any challenge. Existing legislation could be open to a challenge in the courts, he said.

"It's inconceivable that over time we will not move towards a much more restrictive regime in relation to passive smoking. The cancer figures and figures concerning smoking-related deaths are there and we have to recognise that."

The priority, he added, was to publish the new legislation. Issues such as opposition to the move by publicans would be dealt with after that. "There seems to have been some confusion about this. The position is that the legislation will be published before the end of August, it will then have to go through the Oireachtas and after that, the detailed regulations will follow," Mr Martin said.

A spokeswoman for the Vintners' Federation of Ireland, which represents 6,000 pubs outside Dublin, said a ban on smoking would be unworkable. The only practical approach to improving air quality in pubs was better ventilation, she added.