At midnight on Sunday 28th March Ireland became the first country in Europe to ban smoking in places of work. People are no longer allowed to smoke in bars, restaurants or hotels. Although the ban has caused very vocal opposition, it also has many supporters.
This report from Russell Padmore:
Fewer than one in three of Ireland's population smokes and according to several surveys the move to stop people puffing cigarettes in work places has prompted about a quarter of smokers to try to give up. Ireland has more than ten thousand bars and it's the pub industry that's worried that the ban will lead to a collapse in trade, as smokers are forced out into the street.
The Irish Government has examined similar bans in America and it's convinced there are many benefits. The Department of Health claims smoking costs the country's economy about six million dollars every day in sick leave from work and lost productivity. It also costs the Government more than a billion dollars every year to provide health care for people suffering tobacco related illnesses.
Although very high taxes are levied on tobacco or cigarettes, the Government is prepared to deal with lower revenues in its budget plans. The tobacco industry is not a major employer here, so there's little risk of job losses. Hundreds of environmental health officers will help to police the ban, but the country's bar staff are concerned that they are expected to enforce it in pubs, hotels and restaurants.
The move is being closely watched by other governments throughout Europe and it's thought that successfully changing lifestyle habits for the Irish could lead to similar bans in other European Union countries.