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Last Updated: Monday, 31 May, 2004, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
Ireland's smoking ban 'a success'
Seamus Copeland of Wicklow town lights his last cigarette before the ban in The Mariner Bar
The traditional pint and a smoke ended in March in Ireland
The Irish Republic has hailed a smoking ban as a success, with 97% of inspected premises complying with the law.

A report on the workplace ban, by the Office of Tobacco Control (OTC), found one in five smokers now choose not to smoke at all on a night out.

Since the ban was imposed on March 29, 96% of pubs and restaurants have complied - with 89% displaying the required no smoking signs.

The report also found more non-smokers were now venturing out to the pub.

Health minister Michael Martin welcomed the report saying: "The successful introduction of the new measure reflects the widespread public support and goodwill that exists for a healthy smoke-free environment in the workplace."

Set to quit

Meanwhile, Norway is set to follow suit, becoming the second nation to ban smoking in public from a minute past midnight on June 1 (Monday, 2200 GMT).

Officially the ban aims to achieve a smoke-free environment in pubs and restaurants to protect the health of those who work there, but in practise it is also expected to cut smoking in the country.

"This law was not conceived to reduce smoking, but that is of course a positive secondary effect," said Norway's health minister Dagfinn Hoeybraaten.

A recent poll suggests 25% of habitual smokers and 30% of occasional tobacco users say they will quit from June 1.

The research indicates the number of non-smokers visiting pubs and bars has increased slightly since the introduction of the new law, while the number of smokers has remained the same
Dave Molloy, OTC chief inspector
Since Norway's draft law was made public, around 100,000 smokers there have already quit - taking the percentage of smokers in the country down from 29% in 2002 to 26% a year later.

And the Irish experience shows the new ban is likely to change social habits.

Business fears

On a visit to Oslo last week the Irish health minister Mr Martin said: "The main social phenomenon that has resulted (from the ban) is a new kind of dating. Men are following the women."

To explain the new law, Norway has devised a series of humorous adverts such as: "Welcome to Norway. The only thing we smoke here is salmon."

Bar landlords and restaurateurs may not be looking forward to the change, for fear of losing business. However, the Irish example seems to suggest the ban has had little effect on customer numbers.

Prior to its introduction, the hospitality industry was vocal in its opposition to the plan, claiming it would result in a loss of business.

But OTC chief inspector Dave Molloy said that those arguments had proved to be unfounded.

No smoking bar
Norway is set to follow in Ireland's smoke-free footsteps
"The research indicates the number of non-smokers visiting pubs and bars has increased slightly since the introduction of the new law, while the number of smokers has remained the same.

"In response to concerns expressed by the licensed trade, much of the compliance building effort and support materials were directed specifically at this sector and this is reflected in the statistics," he said.

Ireland's OTC based its report on two studies - one carried out just before the ban and another a month later.

Complaints dip

Mr Molloy said pubs and restaurants made up 66% of the premises checked.

He added that 96% of all workers surveyed had reported that their workplace was not smoky, while the number of customers who felt the pub or bar most recently visited was smoky sank from 52% to 2%.

Meanwhile, a hotline set up for people to report places flouting the ban has received more than 1,500 calls.

The OTC said that 677 of the calls - or 44% - were complaints, adding that over half were made in the first week of the ban.

Other calls involved inquiries and information requests.

The OTC added that although the volume of calls had fallen, the hotline would remain open, though its opening hours will be cut back.

Psychiatric hospitals, hotel bedrooms, prison cells and nursing homes are exempt from the ban, but all workplaces in the Republic of Ireland - including company cars, film sets and cafes - are now smoke-free.

Anyone caught smoking illegally by health inspectors enforcing the ban can be fined up to 3,000 euros (2,400).

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