A Decade of No Smoking

Ireland set the precedent for smoke-free work places.

By Matthew Skwiat, Contributing Editor
August / September 2014

This past March 29 marked the 10-year anniversary of the smoking ban in Ireland, a milestone that few thought they would see. In 2004, a law banned smoking in the workplace that extended to pubs and restaurants. At the time the Vintners Federation of Ireland said the law was “unnecessary, unworkable, and unjustified.” Since then, the image of an Ireland filled with pints, music, and smoke is no more thanks to the success of the law.

Health ministry studies show 97% adherence to the ban. The law has also been a boon to the tourism and hotel markets in Ireland. Stephen McNally, president of the Irish Hotels Federation, recently told The New York Times that the “ban was a spectacular success,” adding “we used to come home at night and your clothes would have this horrible stench. Now our restaurants, hallways, and bedrooms smell fresh.”

Not only are tourists flocking to a newly oxidized Ireland, but the ban has greatly improved the health of the Irish people. The Tobacco Free Research Institute Ireland conducted studies in 2013 that saw a 26% post-ban reduction in heart disease and a 32% decline in strokes, suggesting that over the decade 3,700 lives were saved.

The news is not all good, however. Ireland’s Health Service Executive findings show the number of occasional and light smokers increased with the largest group of smokers coming from the 18-24 age group, beating out the 25-34 year olds who dominated before the ban. Still, most everyone agrees that the smoking ban has been a resounding success. It has created a domino effect around the world with countries such as Norway, New Zealand, Italy, Britain, Greece, Brazil, and most recently Russia this past July, all passing similar smoking bans.

Stanton Glantz, Director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, commented on the anniversary, saying, “Ireland did everything right. Because of Ireland almost all of Europe is smoke-free today. They all figured, if Ireland can do it, any country can.”

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