Europe bans smoking, at last

Ireland has become the first country in the world to impose a nationwide ban on smoking in all workplaces, pubs, bars and restaurants. European Union health commissioner David Byrne, who is Irish, has said he would like to see the ban replicated throughout the EU, inform

Days after the 40th anniversary of Behan’s death, the Irish Republic last night became the first country in Europe to ban smoking in the workplace, including pubs and restaurants. On the stroke of midnight a nation that has exported its pub culture across the world enacted a law so strict that only the Himalayan mountain kingdom of Bhutan, where tobacco is banned altogether, can now boast harsher anti-smoking legislation. Dozens of special "smoke-ins" were held across Ireland last night as smokers bade farewell to their precious rights.

The ban has led to feverish speculation about how it will change life in Ireland, where smokers include about 25 per cent of the population and a pipe-smoking dog from Co Westmeath called Jessie.

There have been predictions that snuff will catch on and that the country’s pubs will be flooded with herbal cigarettes. Anti-litter campaigners say that the streets will be awash with up to 20 million cigarette butts. Thousands of smokers were last night planning ways to avoid the ban, which applies to all enclosed spaces designated as workplaces, including company cars.

Although there are only 41 "tobacco control officers" to police the ban, they will be helped by 350 environmental health officers as well as a telephone complaints line for members of the public to report smokers, report

Opinion polls have consistently shown that most people in Ireland support the move, and the government says that even 40 percent of the country's smokers are behind it.

Some smokers have had March 29 pencilled in their diaries for months as the day they will give up a habit which kills about 7 000 in Ireland each year.

But others say the ban is ill-conceived and unenforceable.

The Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI), which represents about 6 000 publicans across the country, says it is unfair to expect its members to police the ban, according to

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