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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 June 2004, 17:59 GMT 18:59 UK
Irish take smoking ban in stride
Shane Harrison
BBC correspondent in Dublin

Smokers in Irish pub
Smoking has been banned in pubs in Ireland since March
The Irish Republic introduced a smoking ban in pubs, restaurants and other workplaces at the end of March 2004.

Four months on, BBC correspondent Shane Harrison reports on how it's working.

The pub plays an important role in Irish social life. It is where friends meet to share a drink and to chat.

You tamper with pub culture here at your peril.

But that is exactly what the government did when it introduced its smoking ban aimed at protecting workers' health.

And despite the dire warnings that jobs would be lost and sales would drop dramatically, nothing of the sort has happened.

At least not yet, though vintners groups complain that some publicans have noticed a fall-off in trade.

Pub culture

Indeed, the ban is now so universally accepted that one correspondent wrote to a national newspaper here that she saw a group of men standing outside a pub smoking at 7am when the pub should legally have been closed.

The implication was that it was OK to drink in a pub outside of opening hours but don't dare light up inside.

A recent report by the state's Office of Tobacco Control found well over 90% compliance with the ban.
A pint of Guinness being purchased in an Irish pub
Alcohol abuse is still a problem

Many people have been surprised about how quickly the Irish people have adapted to the change and how easily they were persuaded to say goodbye to the traditionally smoky pub.

If you visit Dublin today you will see a new emerging pub culture - one that combines continental café society with the traditional public house.

That means people drinking outside on the street, sitting at a table, with their pint in one hand and a cigarette in the other as they chat with fellow smokers.

Whether this changed behaviour lasts into the cold, wet winter is, of course, another question.

Inside you are likely to see more women and more families than you would have in the past.

The pubs certainly look cleaner and the air is definitely better.

Mind you, one national radio presenter recently complained that the air was so fresh that these days in pubs you could now smell a lot more of the customers' farts - something that the smoke had previously disguised.

Many people have been surprised about how quickly the Irish people have adapted to the change and how easily they were persuaded to say goodbye to the traditionally smoky pub
Shane Harrison

That complaint is frequently heard but most people believe it is a small price to pay, if only because you cannot get cancer from the passive inhaling of farts.

While the Irish have adapted to the change without any major problem, many tourists visiting the city have had to be reminded that they're not allowed to light up any more in pubs and restaurants here.

The overwhelming majority accept the ban with little more hostility than a mere shrug of the shoulders.

The Irish government is pleased Norway has now followed its example and introduced a smoking ban.

And it is confident that other countries will follow suit in their attempts to curb the side-effects of passive smoking.

So, after successfully changing one part of Irish pub culture, the government will be keen to challenge another - alcohol abuse.

That is probably a bigger problem but one, nonetheless, that most people agree needs tackling.


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