Ireland May Ban Smoking in Pubs
DUBLIN, Ireland - In a measure of Ireland's growing intolerance of tobacco, the government said Wednesday it intended to include pubs, the country's major haven for smokers, in a bill to outlaw smoking in most public places.
Health Minister Micheal Martin told lawmakers in the parliament's health committee he would amend the Public Health (Tobacco) Bill to include pubs, which just a decade ago were invariably dens of smoke-filled bonhomie.
In these days of growing prosperity and health awareness, many pubs now cast a cold eye on smokers, cordoning them into specific zones.
Martin announced the plan to include pubs after opposition politicians in parliament accused him Wednesday of seeking to allow pub owners â€” who in many cases are activists for the governing Fianna Fail party â€” room to wriggle free of his smoking-ban plans.
Gay Mitchell, health spokesman for the main opposition Fine Gael party, said the existing bill does not mention pubs.
"This allows the minister to say to the smoking industry and to the publicans, `Don't worry lads, I'm not actually going to do this'," Mitchell said.
Martin said pubs would not evade the legislation.
"Let's not have any doubt out there," the health minister said. "I have an amendment coming out later which mentions the workplace and pubs. ... We are adding those two to the list."
Health authorities estimate there are approximately 7,000 smoking-related deaths a year in Ireland, whose population is nearly 3.8 million.
Ireland has raised the legal smoking age from 16 to 18, but the lack of photo-based identification cards makes enforcement difficult.