Ireland's pubs fume as MPs eye smoking ban
DUBLIN, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Irish MPs on Tuesday recommended banning smoking in public -- a move greeted as a breath of fresh air by non-smokers but pilloried as a smokescreen by irate pub landlords who fear it will kill off business.
In a report, the parlimentary health committee unveiled an ambitious plan to stub out smoking by under-18s within five years, cut back adult smoking and ban all tobacco advertising.
The report recommends ``The elimination of tobacco use and smoking in public places and in the work place'' as well as a ban on all tobacco advertising, sponsorship or patronage.
``The committee proposes a new national health objective - that smoking by all persons under 18 years be entirely eliminated by 2005 and that by that date, adult smokers be reduced to below 15 percent of those aged 18 and over,'' it said.
Pub landlords called the proposals draconian and unrealistic, saying they impinged on individuals' rights and would kill off socialising, dent government tax revenues and hit the jobs market.
Speaking on behalf of the country's pubs, the Vintners Federation of Ireland accused parliament of trying to incite a form of apartheid between smokers and non-smokers, saying it would sound the death knell of the traditional pub.
``I don't believe you can segregate smokers and non-smokers. I don't believe you can introduce an apartheid system into Ireland's pubs between smokers and non-smokers,'' said Tadg O'Sullivan, the federation's chief executive.
``If you ban smoking in pubs, all of the customers will choose not to go the pubs. The whole purpose of going to the pub is to socialise and have a bit of fun -- let's not destroy that,'' he added.
Smoking kills more than 6,000 people a year in Ireland according to health department statistics while thousands suffer from smoking related diseases.
But pub landlords can breathe easily for now. The government now has to decide whether to adopt the legislation -- and that could take anything from months to years.