Pubs targeted as curbs on smoking are extended

 

SMOKING is now banned in taxis and hackneys, hairdressers, creches and playschools, as well as in doctors' and dentists' waiting rooms, under new regulations which came into effect yesterday.

The prohibition is also extended to chemists, public areas in banks, building societies and other financial institutions, and to bingo halls, bowling alleys and barber shops.

Two-thirds of the seating in trains, on aircraft and ferries and in the arrivals and departures areas in Irish airports and harbours are also required to be nonsmoking.

Further restrictions will take effect in May, when restaurants which meet ventilation standards set by health boards will have to designate at least 25 per cent of their seating as non-smoking Restaurants not meeting the new standards will have to set aside at least 50 per cent of seating for non-smokers.

The May deadline for the introduction of restaurant regulations has been set to allow time for improved ventilation to be installed and inspected. Restaurants are currently required to have a non-smoking area, but the proportion of seating involved is left to the discretion of managements.

The official clampdown on smoking began five years ago and prohibitions and restrictions up to now have applied to schools, hospitals, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, supermarkets, food preparation areas, sports centres, government buildings and public transport.

The Minister of State far Health, Mr Brian O'Shea, is considering possible anti-smoking measures in pubs. He said that he thought the climate of public opinion had now changed sufficiently to allow serious consideration of the need to cater properly for those who would like to "drop into their local without having to spend the evening inhaling other people's tobacco smoke".

The Minister, who emphasised that he was gradually increasing restrictions in premises which were in competition with pubs, said that there was now "an unanswerable case, both on equity and public health grounds, to make progress on this one remaining area".

In another development, an anti-smoking helpline has been set up to help people who want to stop smoking. The "Nicorette Stop Smoking Helpline" can be dialled on 1550-111-500. Callers will be offered a free "help pack" containing an information leaflet, audio tape and letter of encouragement. Proceeds from the helpline will go to the Irish Cancer Society.

According to a survey conducted on behalf of Nicorette, some 240,000 Irish smokers would like to give up, while more than half of those who smoke feel badly about doing so.

The proportion of Irish smokers in the adult population is estimated to have dropped from 43 per cent in the I970s to about 27 per cent today.