Press Release

Statement from the Minister for Health and Children, Micheál Martin, TD, regarding the proposed ban on smoking in the workplace, from January 2004

Smoking claims the lives of 7,500 people in Ireland, each year. Tobacco smoke is carcinogenic and the widely accepted international scientific concensus is that passive smoking kills.

From January 2004, smoking will be prohibited in all workplaces, without exception. This legislation is about the right to work in a smoke-free environment. The health and well being of an employee cannot be compromised because of the sector in which he or she works. The rights of those within the hospitality industry are every bit as important as the rights of workers in other settings, such as an office or factory floor.

The figures recently cited in relation to job losses are purely speculative and I have yet to see any evidence to support the claims made by the Irish Hospitality Industry Alliance. However, I am happy to meet with this group to establish their representation and understand the basis of their claims.

Over 70% of the Irish population are non-smokers and are unwillingly exposed to the effects of passive smoking, which presents a huge health risk.

There will be a period of adjustment for smokers. There will be a period of change for employers and employees. But I firmly believe that the Irish can, and will, adjust to the new legislation, as we did when smoking was banned from cinemas and airplanes over ten years ago.

My Department is working with a range of partners, including the Irish College of General Practitioners, Health Boards, the Health and Safety Authority, the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation, amongst others, to introduce a comprehensive and realistic smoking cessation action plan which will help employers, employees and smokers in preparation for January 2004.