Ireland accepts a breath of fresh air

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Indy Lifestyle Online

In the Irish Republic the smoking ban was debated endlessly before its introduction, but within days had become accepted as a fact of life, resented by some but supported by a large majority.

In the Irish Republic the smoking ban was debated endlessly before its introduction, but within days had become accepted as a fact of life, resented by some but supported by a large majority.

The familiar fug of the Irish pub disappeared overnight, with many people saying they felt free to venture into bars after years of being deterred by the smoke.

The ban, introduced in March, covers not only pubs but all workplaces. There are exemptions for places such as hotel bedrooms, prisons and psychiatric hospitals.

The prohibition is generally viewed as a success, with delegations from various parts of the UK travelling to Dublin to see how it operates.

Pubs in Dublin and elsewhere now feature small groups of people at doorways who have popped out for a smoke. Some bars provide tables and chairs for customers and have erected patios and shelters.

More up-market establishments call these "smoking pavilions". With winter at hand many pubs are installing gas patio heaters, some of which are token-operated.

Many people have used the ban as an incentive to give up cigarettes or at least cut down. A recent survey indicated that almost 7,000 had kicked the habit, while 10,000 were smoking less.

Publicans grumble that drink sales are down, particularly in what are called "land-locked" pubs, which have no room to allow smoking outside.

Alcohol sales had been dipping in any case as the authorities sought to reduce consumption regarded as excessive. Publicans say the trend has been accelerated by the ban.

A vintners' spokesman, Seamus O'Donoghue, said business at his premises in Portlaoise had fallen by between 20 and 25 per cent. He added: "The smoking ban is a significant player in this because it accelerated a downturn which began last Christmas."

Last month the authorities moved swiftly to quell a public challenge to the ban mounted by two pub owners in Galway. They were quickly brought to court and fined more than €6,000 (£4,200).

Inspectors tour pubs, hotels and other premises to ensure the ban is being observed. Responsibility for stopping smoking rests with the publican.

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