Minister Martin announces date for going smoke-free at work
Minister for Health and Children, Micheál Martin, TD, today (Wednesday, 18th February) announced that the smoking in the workplace ban would be implemented in Ireland from March 29th 2004.
The “Smoke-Free at Work” initiative, is being introduced under The Public Health (Tobacco) Act, 2002 (Section 47) Regulations 2003. Enforcement of the ban will be carried out by Environmental Health Officers and by Inspectors of the Health and Safety Authority.
Speaking at the announcement the Minister said; “First and foremost, this is a health and safety measure, the purpose of which is to offer protection to workers, and the public, who are exposed to the harmful and toxic effects of second-hand tobacco smoke, in workplaces”.
“I am pleased that the way is now clear to enforce this important legislation, which has the overwhelming support of the majority of people in Ireland”.
“There can be no dispute over the damaging effects of tobacco and second hand-smoke. There can be no dispute about the health benefits of this measure. This legislation has been introduced in the interest of health and in the interest of the Irish people. It is as a result of unequivocal expert advice, which states that the best way to protect workers from the effects of environmental tobacco smoke is through legislative measures”.
“I accept that there will be a period of change. This is a positive change and I am confident that, as a result of going Smoke-Free at Work, we will leave a health legacy for both current and future generations”.
“I am also confident that this measure will be implemented with the minimum of fuss by a country that can look forward to a cleaner, healthier working environment”.
“The speculation and debate are over. It is now time for employer sectors and the public to prepare for the successful implementation of smoke-free workplaces.”
From 29th March, Smoking will not be permitted in enclosed places of work except: prisons, Garda Station detention areas and St Patrick´s Institution. Given the unique circumstances pertaining to prisons and places of detention, they will not be covered by the legislation.
Tobacco Smoking (Prohibition) (Amendment) Regulations 2003.
The exemptions will also apply to: A nursing home, a hospice, Religious order homes, Central Mental Hospital, a Psychiatric hospital, maternity home, hotel, guesthouse and B&B bedrooms and third level education residential facilities. Tobacco Smoking (Prohibition) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2003 (please refer to note below)*
Commenting on the exemptions, the Minister said; “Whilst some areas have been exempted from the Legislation, it is important to bear in mind that all employers still have the right to enforce the legislation; the exemption only confers the right not to be penalised for non enforcement”.
“I stress that every employer has a duty of care to an employee and these Exemptions do not constitute a right to smoke in an enclosed workplace. Health and safety are still a priority, but the Exemptions will allow employers the option of making smoking provisions for employees.”
Amendments to the legislation
Commenting on the Amendments on the Legislation that were notified to Europe, the Minister said; “My objective was to introduce this Legislation at the earliest opportunity and obviously, I encountered a number of issues before reaching this important day. However, it must be remembered that despite delays, my Department, along with the Office of Tobacco Control and the Health and Safety Authority were determined that this historical Legislation would be introduced. I firmly believe that it was better to have delayed the date for enforcement than to have abandoned it, particularly when I feel so committed to the benefits of this health measure.”
Inspections will be undertaken by Environmental Health Officers and by Inspectors of the Health and Safety Authority. A Memo of Understanding has been agreed between the HSA and the OTC to which the Department of Health and Children is also a party. These two agencies will be acting in a co-ordinated capacity in helping to endure compliance with the new measure. The traditional workplace locations visited by the Health and Safety Authority will have to comply with the new smoke-free measure requirements as part of their compliance with general health and safety requirements. Monitoring compliance with the smoke-free measure in the food and hospitality area will be carried out by officers from health boards and the Office of Tobacco Control.
Fines / breaches of the legislation
A fine of up to €3,000 will be imposed on any person found guilty of breaching the law. The owner, manager or person in charge of a workplace is legally responsible for ensuring compliance with health and safety requirements including the prohibition on smoking in the workplace
Support for workplaces
In preparation for the implementation of the ban, the Department of Health and Children has organised a comprehensive information awareness campaign entitled “Smoke-Free at Work”. The campaign will comprise of leaflets, booklets and posters for employers; promotional materials for the hospitality industry, information for the general public; a radio information campaign and the launch of a website.
In support, the Office of Tobacco Control will also implement a national advertising campaign and has produced workplace guidelines for the hospitality industry.
Definition of an outdoor area
The type of outdoor smoking area provided is at the discretion of the employer, subject to the requirements of the legislation.
The definition of an outdoor area is:
- A place or premises, or part of a place or premises that is wholly uncovered by any roof, fixed or mobile.
- An outdoor place or premises, covered by a roof, as long as not more than 50% of the perimeter is covered by a wall, windows, gate (or similar).