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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 March 2006, 12:53 GMT
'If we can do it any country can'
By Mona McAlinden
BBC Scotland news website

With Scotland's smoking ban being introduced this weekend, BBC Scotland's news website talks to people in the Irish Republic about how the law has worked there.

Entrance to a pub smoking area
The entrance to the smoking area in The Bodega pub in Cork

As the evening draws in on a rainy St Patrick's Day in Cork city centre, the area's many pubs and clubs seem to be bursting at the seams.

Queues of revellers adorned with feather boas and silly hats snake along the narrow pavements and walkways.

The crowds are swelled even more by the steady stream of smokers spilling onto the city's streets.

Cork has a historical reputation for independence, which has earned it "The Rebel County" nickname.

Therefore it will be interesting to note whether the attitude to the ban, which has its second anniversary next week, has softened since the early days when Cork's publicans and taxi drivers openly flouted it.

Michael McFadden
I think it's great to just lock them all in a room and leave them to it
Michael McFadden
Barman at The Bodega

In The Bodega, a city centre cafe and pub, barman Michael McFadden couldn't be happier with the legislation.

Mr McFadden, a non-smoker, was precisely the type of employee the Irish Government said it was trying to protect by implementing the law.

"I've worked in this bar for five years and it really was not a nice experience before the ban came in. Your clothes would stink and I actually felt quite chesty at times," he said.

"So I fully supported the ban. I think it's great to just lock them all in a room and leave them to it.

"Publicans were worried that smokers would stay indoors. Trade has gone down, but it tends to affect small businesses more than city centre bars like ours."

Sean Power
The one area where some concern has been expressed is what actually constitutes an enclosed space
Sean Power
Irish Health Minister

However, it could be argued that Mr McFadden will still be exposed to second-hand smoke as the pub has provided a semi-enclosed space for smokers.

An adjoining room, with four walls and a partly "breathable" roof, is the pub's designated smoking area and where the staff still serve food and drinks.

Mr McFadden said: "I suppose the indoor area does give us an advantage because smokers feel a little more cosy.

"We have music in there at the weekend, so it keeps the customers happy as well as fulfilling the regulations."

Smoking area in a Cork pub
Photographing the indoor area was refused but the roof is still visible

According to Sean Power, the Irish Health Minister, anomalies still exist within the legislation.

He told BBC Scotland's news website: "The one area where some concern has been expressed is what actually constitutes an enclosed space.

"But they are items that can be dealt with, if further changes to regulations are required."

Mr Power said that despite initial concerns about public co-operation, 26,000 inspections within a year had shown compliance rates of 95%.

However, businesses have not been given any government funding to enforce the law.

"The legislation is trying to prevent people from smoking rather than encouraging it. So providing that sort of assistance wouldn't have been appropriate," Mr Power said.

Government revenue

The Irish finance department said that revenue gained from tobacco fell by 98m euros in 2004, a 15% drop in sales.

In 2005, the consumption of tobacco products increased by 4%, but it was still 12% lower than before the ban.

Mr Power said that the success of the ban had been reflected in the drop in tobacco sales.

"Normally there would be concern about reductions in government revenue but this time we welcomed it as an indication of the success of what we were doing," he said.

"If the ban has worked in Ireland, it can work in any country."

James Tuohey
I was really dreading the ban before it came in but there are more pros than cons
James Tuohey
Barman at The Brog

A spokeswoman for the Vintners Federation of Ireland said that immediately after the ban, pubs saw a 10-15% drop in trade, which stretched to 25% in some rural areas.

She added: "Trade has started to pick up a bit now but still hasn't reached pre-ban levels.

"However, there are other factors in the decrease. Consumers are changing their habits, with more buying alcohol from supermarkets and drinking it at home."

One of the oddest aspects of the ban is the cacophony of smells within pubs. Apparently, the stench of smoke has been masking other unpleasant odours.

Some pub goers remarked that instead of the smell of smoke, they have had to contend with a mixture of flatulence, body odour, stale beer and disinfectant.

VOTE RESULTS
What would you prefer to smell in pubs?
Smoke
16%
Beer
42%
Perfume
30%
Body odour
1%
Flatulence
11%
4799 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Vote now closed

From talking to those milling about outside pubs, it is apparent that most smokers are embracing the law.

James Tuohey, a smoker and barman at The Brog, said he was dreading the ban before it was introduced.

"It hasn't stopped me smoking but it definitely cuts it down. The only down side is the weather, it's not very enjoyable standing out during the winter.

"The biggest plus is the social aspect. The ban means you meet loads of smokers outside, it's a real ice-breaker."


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