Address by Mr. Micheál Martin T.D. Minister for Health and Children at a Press Briefing in advance of 29 March 2003 the Starting Date for the Smoke Free Workplace Initiative

Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to welcome all of you here for this briefing in advance of 29 March 2004, the starting date for the smoke free workplace initiative when enclosed places of work will become free of harmful tobacco smoke. I spoke to you previously here on the 18 February last when announcing the starting date for this significant public health measure.

Since then my Department and the relevant state agencies the Office of Tobacco Control and the Health and Safety Authority have rolled out a national public information campaign “Smoke Free at Work” across TV, radio and the print media. A series of print materials for workplaces, employees, employers and the general public has issued and the material has been made available on line as well.

The response to the campaign to date has been very positive with a huge demand from all sectors for the materials which are designed to be practical, relevant and helpful in preparing for and implementing the measure. This important tobacco free initiative has the support of the majority of people in Ireland, smokers and non-smokers alike. This is a positive, progressive health and safety measure, which will bestow positive benefits to workers and the general public alike.

The emphasis of the campaign is to positively help all sectors with any problems that may arise. There has been a large concentration on the impact of the measure on the hospitality area and the licensed trade in particular. I would like to emphasise that the smoke free initiative is aimed at indoor workplaces generally to try to ensure that protection from toxic tobacco smoke is provided for employees across the board. The response from employers has been very helpful in ensuring compliance with the measure. The trade union movement has also been very proactive in supporting this important workplace health measure. Thousands of workers in offices and factories all over the Country will benefit from this measure.

With regard to the licensed trade in particular the representative bodies have adopted co-operative and responsible position and I acknowledge that here to-day. We have endeavoured to be as helpful as possible to the sector in the materials made available to assist licensed premises in adapting.

In regard to compliance and enforcement the Environmental Health Officers working through the health boards have established an excellent reputation for a fair and even handed approach in advising on and implementing public health policy in the hospitality, food and beverage area. Once again we will be calling on their skill and expertise in monitoring compliance with and providing guidance and advice to employers and employees on this new public health measure. I am pleased to have with us here today a representative from the Environmental Health Officers Association which has contributed significantly in preparing for this new initiative. The Office of Tobacco Control and the Health and Safety Authority whose representatives are also here today have likewise been very proactive in the preparation of the materials which have been made available nationwide. The Health and Safety Authority inspection personnel will bring much experience and expertise in monitoring the new measure in their traditional areas ofoperation.

While this new measure will be effective nationally from 29 March I am aware that many workplaces have already taken the initiative themselves and have become tobacco free.

I would like to thank everybody for their support and commitment to implementing the Tobacco Free Initiative. Much hard work has been done to ensure that appropriate mechanisms are in place and in the preparation of appropriate relevant material is appreciated.

I acknowledge that adapting to the new measure will require some adjustment and will not be entirely problem free. However, I am confident that people will adjust. Most people are law abiding and responsible and I am confident that the vast majority of employers, employees and the public will respect the new measure.