Smoking ban comes into force in North

The smoking ban in the North’s pubs, restaurants and workplaces came into effect from midnight – three years after the rest of Ireland became the first European country to prohibit public smoking.

Scotland introduced its ban in March last year and Wales began operating the policy on April 2.

The smoking ban will be extended to England on July 1.

The ban was initiated in the North by former smoker Shaun Woodward when he was Minister for Health in the Northern Office.

Almost 65,000 people in the North backed the ban in a public consultation exercise – almost 91% of those who responded.

Mr Woodward’s successor Paul Goggins, who will hand over the Department of Health to devolved minister Michael McGimpsey when power sharing returns to the province on May 8, said the ban would save lives.

“Second-hand smoke is a toxic cocktail of around 4,000 chemicals – many of which cause cancer,” he said.

“It is internationally accepted that there can be no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.

“Non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke are 20%-30% more likely to develop lung cancer – not to mention the other illnesses and diseases.

“It is regrettable and astonishing that second-hand smoke accounts for the loss of around 278 lives each year in Northern Ireland.

“People do not want to breathe in other people’s smoke. That was made very clear at the consultation stage of this legislation.

“By reducing our level of exposure, this legislation will improve health and save lives.”

In the rest of Ireland and other European nations which have since adopted a smoking ban, cigarette sales have fallen.

Bars and restaurants in Scotland and Ireland have also reported massive improvements in air quality – with an 83% reduction in air pollution in Irish pubs and an 80% fall in airborne carcinogens for customers and staff.

The ban has been supported by medical professionals, cancer charities and health organisations ranging from the Northern Ireland Health Promotion Agency, the Ulster Cancer Foundation, Action Cancer, Macmillan Cancer Support, the British Medical Association, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the Royal College of Nursing, Chest, Heart and Stroke NI and the Institute of Public Health.

While bar, shop and restaurant owners put up signs warning customers smoking was prohibited, some public houses in the North were also dispensing advice to smokers to help them kick the habit.

Bars who flout the ban were warned they could be reported by members of the public to a compliance telephone line, operating from today.

Fines of £50 (€73.2) will be immediately imposed on any smoker who insists on lighting up in a pub or enclosed public space, while businesses could be fined up to £2,500 (€3,700) for failing to enforce the ban.

The ban will be enforced in the North by local government environmental health officers.

Smokers wishing to kick the habit are being offered help through a special helpline.

Most Read in Ireland