A smoking ban is to be implemented in all Northern Ireland's workplaces and enclosed public spaces, including pubs, the health minister has said.
There is to be a smoking ban in Northern Ireland in 2007
Shaun Woodward made the announcement in Belfast following an extensive consultation exercise on the issue.
It will be April 2007 before the new legislation comes into effect in Northern Ireland.
The Irish Republic introduced a total ban on smoking in workplaces and public spaces in 2004.
The minister told an audience which included health professionals and members of the licensed trade in the city's Waterfront Hall: "I do not want to stop those who want to go on smoking from doing so.
"That's your choice. You have every right to lead your life as you choose.
"But no-one has a right to subject colleagues and workmates to the dangers and hazards of second-hand smoke and passive smoking.
"No-one has a right to subject members of the public who do not smoke to those same dangers in enclosed public spaces.
Mr Woodward - himself an ex-smoker - recently visited Dublin and New York to assess how both cities have administered their bans.
Over the summer, he revealed the results of a public consultation in Northern Ireland which showed that 91% of those questioned were in favour of a total ban.
Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer Dr Etta Campbell said it was "a momentous day for the health of the public".
"(The minister) has shown strong leadership and long-term vision, and his name will go down in history as having done something really worthwhile for the people of Northern Ireland," she said.
The announcement comes as medical researchers stated that a smoking ban in the Republic of Ireland was protecting bar workers.
Health groups have welcomed the decision, and the British Medical Association's Dr Peter Maguire said the government had "listened to the people".
"Minister Woodward has shown courage in making this decision and we will give him our full support in taking it to implementation," he said.
Deborah Arnott, director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said it was the "most important advance for public health in Northern Ireland for 30 years".
"Non-smokers will be protected from the health damage caused by second-hand smoke and many smokers in the province will be prompted to give up," she said.
Dr Sam Everington, the BMA's deputy chairman, said he hoped Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt would introduce a ban in England.
However, the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association (TMA) said they were disappointed at the move.
Tim Lord, chief executive of the TMA, said Mr Woodward had "chosen to ignore the wishes of the majority".
"Government data (ONS) shows that in the UK only 31% of people want a total ban on smoking in pubs," he said.
"Research undertaken in Northern Ireland itself by Forest found that only 33% of people consider smoking should be banned completely in all pubs, bars and clubs with 43% thinking that pubs and clubs should be mainly non-smoking but with separate areas for smoking."
He said a total ban may have a "drastic effect" on the hospitality industry in Northern Ireland.
In Northern Ireland, the Ulster Cancer Foundation had urged the minister not to take the "soft option" of a partial ban.
Publicans were hoping Mr Woodward would opt for a partial ban.
Speaking before Monday's announcement, Nicola Carruthers, chief executive of the Federation of the Retail Licensed Trade, Northern Ireland, said: "What we fear is a complete smoking ban. What we hope is that there is still room for a small compromise."
What do you think of the decision to ban smoking in all public and enclosed public spaces in Northern Ireland? Do you think other countries should follow this example?
This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.
I really think this should be left to the market to decide. If so many people were passionately against smoking in pubs then there would be lots of non-smoking pubs around already. Also we live in a country with very low unemployment. If people were so worried about working in a non-smoking environment then there are many similar minimum wage alternatives. The market shows what people really want. I'm a non-smoker but I love the smell and atmosphere of a smoky pub. Shame on people for imposing their personal choices on others. If you don't like smoky pubs then don't go there. If you think there aren't any near you then open one up. If the 90% figure is true then you'll make a killing.
Simon, Much Wenlock
I've just come back from a week in Northern Ireland, and compared to the smoke filled bars and cafes of the North, the atmosphere in similar establishments in the Republic was a total dream by comparison. I just want to know why NI gets singled out for such luxury treatment. Is it because the UK Government does not have the guts to follow through with this on the mainland?
Tomo, Buckinghamshire, UK
I do hope that all those that support a total ban on smoking, are willing to make up the revenue shortfall in extra taxes, as 70% of the money spent on smoking goes to the government in tax.
Ron Chapman, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Why wait until 2007? Why not start the ban today? And why not throughout the whole of the UK? breathing in other peoples' smoke is absolutely foul.
People adapted to the non-smoking policy in Ireland incredibly fast. Very few (including smokers) would wish to revert. It was so easy to get used to the ban. Whenever I go to Belfast or UK I get a shock when I see people smoking in bars.
Colin Tyrrell, Dublin, Ireland
I can't see how this is going to affect the takings for pubs and clubs; it's not like one pub is allowing smoking and another isn't! In addition, allowing smoking did not drive non-smokers away, so I don't see why a ban on smoking should drive smokers away in significant numbers. I think this is a really positive move and will be welcomed by the majority of people. It will be great to wake up the next day from a night out on the town and not smell and feel like you'd smoked 40 cigarettes (even if you haven't)!
Elaine, Londonderry, NI
What will be next, a ban on smoking in your own house and garden? If you really want it stopped, ban them being made and sold, but the government will not let that happen of course, as they make far too much money from it. So when we have all stopped, and the government have lost lots of money, who will they come to?
John Hulme, Surrey
I am intrigued to see how this affects tax revenue on tobacco and by how much other taxes will need to be put up to cover the shortfall, not to mention the increase in pension payments. Granted medical expenditure on smoking related diseases will eventually go down though will be replaced by increases in the geriatrics budgets as the population gets older, or will the NHS continue with its attitude of not fully treating those in the later years of their lives?
I think it is a positive and welcome step; it has transformed the South of Ireland for the better, and the people of the North will now have similar health benefits. It is the health of the people that matters, not the profits of commercial enterprises.
Eithne Ryan, Belfast, N Ireland
All countries should follow this liberal and democratic step: no one should be forced to breathe the smoke of others. It will also mean increasing sales in the hospitality industry, like in New York or Ireland.
Martin, Berlin, Germany
Fantastic news, only thing is why wait until April 2007? For too long people have been subjected to the disgusting habits of others. I have hated going out to bars and restaurants, only to come home stinking of smoke and waking up with a sore throat. In my opinion, the Government would make smoking illegal if it didn't rely so heavily upon the tax revenue generated from it.
Ian McRandal, Belfast
I think Westminster should stop sitting on their thumbs and follow suit. The Welsh Assembly have agreed to follow but have to wait for English approval!
Nic Drew, Cardiff, Wales
Yet another erosion of human rights. I'm disgusted, but not really surprised, that the Minister has chosen to ignore the wishes of the majority of citizens of Northern Ireland.
Karyn Stapleton, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Having just spent a weekend in Dublin for the first time since its smoking ban, it just seems so backward to come back to England and be subjected to the smell of smoke in pubs and restaurants. Good on NI, and may England follow. Why do we have to wait until 2007 though?
Jamie, Warwick, UK
Your health is your wealth! Well done to all the health professionals and charities that have worked tirelessly to achieve this momentous decision for Northern Ireland. It shouldn't have been such a struggle to ensure the health of the population.
Anne Madden, London
I am a smoker who is trying to quit! Well done Northern Ireland! I'd support an alternative agenda and that is a total ban in all "Public Air". Therefore including street corners, parks, beaches, etc. Why this hang-up only with enclosed spaces?
Bill Wilson, Oadby, Leics