Press Release

Martin announces total ban on smoking in the workplace

Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children and Frank Fahey TD Minister for Labour Affairs today launched the Report on the Health Effects of Environmental Tobacco Smoke in the Workplace by the Office of Tobacco Control and the Health and Safety Authority.

Speaking at the launch, the Minister for Health and Children, Micheál Martin said “While the tobacco industry has played down any possibility of danger in passive smoking, the advice contained in this report is blunt. Current ventilation technologies are inadequate to give workers full protection from the hazards of tobacco smoke. Exposure can best be controlled by banning smoking in places of work. Acting on this advice I will introduce a prohibition on smoking tobacco products in places of work and I have today published draft regulations providing for this. Following a consultation period, I intend to introduce these regulations on January 1st 2004”.

“The World Health Organisation´s International Agency for Research on Cancer has recently declared, without equivocation that environmental tobacco smoke is carcinogenic to humans and it includes more than 50 known carcinogens – frightening when one realises that these are being inhaled for prolonged periods by many non smokers every day. The bottom line is you don´t have to be a smoker to get cancer from cigarette smoking. You can get it if you were never a smoker. That declaration, together with the increasing concern about the health effects of environmental tobacco smoke, led to this report”.

“As children grow, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke significantly reduces their lung capacity and exercise tolerance. It damages the health of children right from the start: for example, it lowers birth weight. It has been identified as a cause of asthma attacks and middle ear disease”, Minister Martin added.

Almost 70% of the adult population in Ireland are nonsmokers yet many people are unwillingly exposed, on a daily basis, to toxic environmental tobacco smoke. Many public areas and facilities and some workplaces are subject to prohibitions and restrictions on smoking and there is a growing demand for increased protection from environmental tobacco smoke. Opinon polls here show there is enormous public support, almost 90%, for extending bans on environmental tobacco smoke. Even many smokers are supportive of prohibitions on smoking in public places. Optimal protection for nonsmokers and smokers is best provided by smokefree areas.

“Workers representatives have been concerned for some time over the threat to the health of employees from toxic tobacco smoke. I have spoken to representatives of the trade union movement on this matter and I appreciate their support for wide ranging measures to eliminate tobacco smoke in the workplace. It is only fair that we have a ´level playing field´ in this important area of public health and that the health of workers is protected on an equitable basis for all.”

“For far too long in Ireland, we´ve had the habit of shrugging our shoulders about health, as if it was something that simply happened. Removing tobacco damage from our lives will have a long-term and significant positive effect on our health as well as on domestic and workplace well-being. This Government is going to act on this Report and deliver those entitlements” concluded Minister Martin.

Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 (section 47) Regulations 2003