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Last Updated: Friday, 2 April, 2004, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Irish smokers 'coping with ban'
James Helm
BBC correspondent in Dublin

Ireland's smoking ban was introduced on Monday. The BBC finds out how it is working out.

Man smoking (generic)
Irish smokers are learning to live with the smoking ban

New Yorkers have got used to such a spectacle, but it is a new sight in Dublin.

Smokers, huddled in pairs, sometimes standing alone, lighting up in the street outside bars.

At least the weather has been relatively kind to them so far, though the forecast is not great.

This is the new reality for Ireland's smokers who now, like their brethren in parts of the United States, cannot smoke indoors.

Workplaces

The ban here prohibits smoking in enclosed workplaces.

It means the moment you walk into a Dublin pub you notice a radical change.

Gone is the grey cloud of cigarette smoke which used to hang above the bar.

One pub manager told me how, on the first night of the ban, a regular customer took a deep breath and declared he could even smell the perfume worn by a woman who'd just walked in.

Micheal Martin, the campaigning health minister who was the driving force behind the smoking ban, is delighted with the way it has gone so far.

Certainly in the pubs which my research has taken me to there has been no sign of mass defiance.

Most smokers and bar staff seem to be taking a pragmatic view and getting on with it.

At O'Reilly's, not far from the centre of Dublin, a couple of smokers stood in the beer garden, having left their pints of Guinness at the bar before heading outside.

John Fogarty, a regular here as well as a keen smoker, said that he is coping.

He even told me he is enjoying being in a pub with clean air, despite the chore of having to go outside for a fag.

'Smoking bus'

Other watering holes have come up with innovative ways of helping smokers.

At Johnnie Fox's pub, overlooking Dublin from the Wicklow Mountains, the owner has bought a double-decker London bus.

It's now a "smoking bus", parked up beside the pub, and a haven for anyone who wants to smoke and be sheltered from the elements.

Man smoking in Dublin pub
The workplace smoking ban applies to pubs and restaurants

The publican, Tony McMahon, took legal advice, and reckons that if he cleans the bus himself, and doesn't let staff enter it, then it doesn't breach the new law he so dislikes.

Another Dublin bar has removed a window pane and put in old fashioned stocks, so desperate customers can stick their heads out through the hole for a smoke.

It has not all gone perfectly though. The smoking ban has already claimed a high-level political casualty.

John Deasy, the Justice spokesman for the main opposition party, Fine Gael, was sacked after lighting up inside the members' bar at Leinster House, the home of the Irish Parliament.

'Smoke rage'

Mr Deasy had been denied access to an outdoor area for a legal smoke. His party supported the ban, and its leader stressed that politicians have a duty to uphold the law just like anyone else.

And in the first reported case of "smoke rage" a bar manager in County Cavan is said to have been attacked by an irate smoker when he tied to enforce the ban.

The owners of pubs and restaurants across Ireland will be watching their takings closely in the coming weeks to see if their businesses are suffering.

Perhaps dry cleaners will be hit, now that entering a pub here does not mean your clothes stink of smoke for days afterwards.

And, ironically, a side-effect of a ban aimed at cleaning up work environments could, in fact, be a different environmental problem: that of discarded cigarette butts left by smokers outside Ireland's pubs.




SEE ALSO:
Smoking ban rattles Ireland's pubs
26 Mar 04  |  Business



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