There should be no return of smoking areas outside pubs and restaurants, respiratory physician and veteran anti-smoking campaigner Prof Luke Clancy has said.
Prof Clancy, who is director-general of the Tobacco Free Research Institute, told Newstalk radio that more people have died from smoking-related diseases than from Covid-19.
He pointed out that the number of Covid deaths to date is approximately 4,000 while 7,000 people had died from smoking related diseases during the pandemic. Something that was entirely preventable, he said.
“We’re restricting freedoms to protect against Covid, which is only partly effective — this could be really effective and is really effective — and is causing greater mortality, and yet there seems to be some sort of resistance to bring it in.”
Prof Clancy added that he did not understand why the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) did not come out and say there should be no smoking in outside areas.
“We should never go back to having smoking areas outside.”
The point was that there was no safe level of smoking, indoors or outdoors, he said. The idea that it would be acceptable for people to smoke where there was food did not make sense.
There was no safe level of second hand smoke. Public health measures should demand that there should not be smoking where there was food, where there were non-smokers who could be damaged by second hand smoke, he said.
“The idea that you would do this where there was food — I can’t believe it – and I can’t understand that this is the direction from Nphet.”
Prof Clancy said that while he assumed smoking where food was being served was officially not allowed, it still happened.
“I assumed that when the pubs opened again, that they’d be so glad to open that there’d be no question of them allowing people to smoke in the outside areas. But you can see on the pavements and so on people are smoking and seem to be indifferent to the needs of others.”
Research had indicated that second-hand smoke, even outdoors, still caused damage, he said.
When asked about comments from smokers’ rights group Forest Ireland that further regulations were not required, and that pubs and bars should not be allowed to choose their own smoking policy in outdoor areas, Prof Clancy said: “I think that the time that we take our public health advice from Forest should be long gone.
“Why bother having Nphet or health committees or specialists when we could get our information from Forest? They have never agreed to anything that has curtailed smoking, even though their own members are dying of it.”
Their comments were “nonsense”, he said.