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« Hearing voices | Main | Three in five smokers want smoking ban relaxed »

Postcard from Ireland

Just back from Ireland - a fleeting visit to Cork and a couple of days in and around Dublin. Here are some observations:

Unlike the UK, where people continue to voice their disapproval, no-one is talking about the smoking ban. And that includes smokers, unless visitors like me ask them for their opinions.

In Cork I met one of the country's few smokers' rights campaigners and he admitted as much. A few hours later the cabbie who drove me from Heuston station to Delgany in Co Wicklow told me that being forced to smoke outside doesn't bother him and I believed him because I've met others who feel the same way. It doesn't mean he wouldn't support a choice of smoking and non-smoking facilities indoors, if it was offered to him, but he don't feel strongly enough to campaign for change.

My driver did however draw the line at further restrictions and I know this because as we were driving south through the Dublin traffic a news item came on the radio. Health officials, it was reported, want to ban smoking in the grounds of a hospital in Cork.

The programme then interviewed a woman who supports the idea. Unchallenged, she claimed that a friend of hers had lost a leg "because of passive smoking". I almost choked on my extra strong mint and I was tempted to call the station myself. Instead, I had a long discussion with my driver who agreed that banning smoking outside is pointless and pathetic.

Interestingly, it does seem that the authorities are enforcing the law less rigorously than when it was first introduced in 2004, and people are finding ways round it.

For example, the taxi driver told me that he has no problem if passengers want to smoke in his cab - which is illegal - as long as they keep their cigarette out of sight of the police.

My friend in Cork told me that when he visits one particular pub in the afternoon the publican will close and lock the doors and produce an ashtray and together they will sit and smoke inside.

In Dublin meanwhile I was taken to lunch and the four of us were given a table on an outside balcony where people could smoke. Every other table on the balcony was taken and although it was sunny it was also a little breezy. I wasn't aware of it at the time but someone must have flicked a switch because a canvas canopy suddenly appeared over our heads creating a rather snug environment. Technically it may have been illegal (customers allowed to eat and smoke in comfort and under cover shock!) but I can't imagine anyone apart from the most fanatical anti-smoker complaining.

Later in the afternoon we popped into a pub that had - wait for it - a separate smoking room! It wasn't very big but it looked and felt as if it was an integral part of the pub. It was separated from the main bar by a floor to ceiling glass wall. It felt, I have to say, like part of the pub. All it lacked was a flatscreen TV to watch the football (Brazil-Holland, since you ask).

At first I thought it was an indoor smoking room. In fact it was like a very large vertical chimney. The brick walls went up and up and up and 40 or 50 feet above our heads you could see the sky. True, we felt some spots of rain on our heads at one point, but generally it felt pretty sheltered.

And consider this. The last time I went through Dublin airport there were stern notices everywhere telling people not to smoke or face the consequences. This time, apart from the usual 'No Smoking' signs, I didn't see anything like that. What I did find was a smoker-friendly Garden Terrace Bar with great big banners that declared: "Coming soon - heated garden terrace designed by Diarmuid Gavin".

According to the airport website: "The bar/restaurant will have seating for 300 people and the 2,500 sq ft roof terrace ... will be a key feature of the development." Smoking area, key feature. Go figure.

The point I take from this is that the private sector is making some effort to cater for smokers. My hope is that the market will continue to find ways to accommodate smokers and a new and more liberal generation of politicians will be more sensible and less heavy-handed in the way that they interpret and enforce the law.

Then again, a simple amendment would suffice. Not too much to ask, is it?

Above: smoking room in a pub in Dublin

Reader Comments (11)

I find Ireland in some ways idiosyncratic. I went to Cork in May 2004 on a football tour just after the smoking ban was introduced and it was from what I could see widely implemented and obeyed. However, there was a wine bar on the main street that had a sectioned off area by glass with a hole in the roof 30' feet high with a small section exposed 3' by 2,' if that. Although being May the staff kindly came in and lit a peat fire for us. That was perfectly comfortable to smoke in.

My conclusion is that the smoking ban has produced an aparteid which kills general socialising stone dead. One thing I notice especially about the celtic fringe is the excellent verbal and communication skills the Irish, Scots and Welsh generally have and is as integral to their culture as it can be.

As business becomes more and more ingenious at making smoking areas more comfortable the ban will just wither on the vine. Let's hope we follow suit.

July 5, 2010 at 10:50 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

"The point I take from this is that the private sector is making some effort to cater for smokers."

Not just in Ireland it would seem. I had a shock recently. I was flying from Terminal 2 at Manchester Airport. There was a sign saying that there was now an alternative smoking area beyond check-in and security. Sure enough, there it was. I won't go into details of how they did it (totally legal) but I was again shocked at how accomodating it was!

July 5, 2010 at 11:54 | Unregistered Commentertimbone

Much of the problem that I personally encounter today regarding smoking, is not so much about people "catching terrible diseases" through second-hand smoke, or their limbs falling off willy-nilly, as I think most people realise now that those arguments are just wasted on anyone with any common sense at all.

The big argument (if you can call it that) now seems to centre on the stink. Smokers make non smokers smell like s**t. Their hair, their clothes, you name it and we cause it.

How different things were in the not too distant past; I am in the midst of doing some research into Victorian London, and I just came across a very interesting article about the dirt and filth that many people in those days had to endure in the daily lives. But when I read the following passage, I thought how different it was from what we know today, but not just with the eradication of the dirt and filth, but with the difference in the way people thought then, to how so many people have been brainwashed now.

Read the paragraph below, which ends with extolling the "wholesome aroma" of a cigar, and think of how the no-brainers of today describe this same thing.

"We will enter these streets and peep into those dark, close, tin- healthy, and forbidding-looking rooms. In this narrow alley a dusky twilight reigns throughout the sunny noon of day. We have to feel for the noisome staircases which open on either hand; and now we have found one, we will grope our way through this land of gloom and shadows. What a dead smell floats around us! a close noisome air, such as arises from an overcrowded vault, even more death- smelling than many a vault we have in our day visited. The staircase is encrusted with dirt, a kind of black greasy mud, which has been trampled into toughness, not unlike what covers the City streets after rain or snow in winter; but "that" is "clean" dirt in comparison to this, for here we tread upon old filth, the accumulation, it. may be, of years; for by the side of the staircase, where it is least trodden, it is mildewy and mouldy. The smoke of our cigar is the only wholesome aroma that rises amid these stifling roams".

July 5, 2010 at 13:50 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

For some of us, smoking is cultural. For others, I am surprised to find - it is actually sexual! I wonder what the hell is the point of even trying to fight for an amendment when our own kind continually stab us in the back. I don't want scraps from the table and to be grateful. I want my life back and to be accepted for who and what I am. Congratulating the Irish for getting sneakily around some parts of the ban is wrong. I will not hide what I do with pride and why the hell should I when we can all be comfortable and "safe" if we had choice.
Smoking ban legislation is a law designed to humiliate people - yes smokers are people too and they deserve to be recognised -not apologised for or told to be grateful that things won't get worse - yet!.

July 5, 2010 at 17:06 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse


I couldn’t agree more! I left a post on ‘Three in five want the smoking ban relaxed’ outlining a format for a television programme that could bring dividends to our cause…yet nobody commented on it whatsoever…except one who thought it was a stupid idea. With all the wind that is pumped out by posters you would think it would be worth exploring all ideas – it would appear not.

I will not be content with scraps from the table; I want a full repeal of the ban. If you ask for an amendment, then of course less will be given. Labour lied to us in the first place saying they would not bring in a blanket ban – remember that? So why should we just settle for an amendment?

July 5, 2010 at 18:06 | Unregistered CommenterChris F J Cyrnik

@ Timbone.

For heavens sake! I fly from Manchester airport 3 or 4 times a year! Tell me about the smoking area! Please tell me a bit about it. Where is it (roughly) and what is it like? I used to really enjoy M/c airport before the ban. One saw all sorts of people - mostly happy people who were looking forward to their holidays and some more grumpy looking people who were probably on business. There were pretty, laughing young women and noisy, cheerful young men. Loads of 'joie de vie'. After the ban, I hated airports: Interminable waiting, queues, ugly obese miserable gits. Do we see the psychology here? - I saw what I wanted to see. Now that there are smoking areas in M/c airport, I might just get my own joie de vie back!

Since the airport is owned by the local authorities (and who is more anti-smoking than a local authority?), I never thought that it would be possible for smoking areas to be contemplated. Reading your comment, I thought how has that happened? And then it struck me - the ash cloud, of course! Hundereds of people trapped 'airside'. I'll bet a pound to a penny that there were mini riots by smokers. It would have taken only one group of people, say a stag party, to say, "Fuck this for a game of soldiers! It is not our fault that we are trapped. We are going to smoke. Bring some ashtrays. Do your worst, Throw us out if you want to, but we will not go quietly. You will have to use violence, and a lot of it. And then we will sue you for using violence and making us miss our flights. Remember that the anti-smoking law requires only that a person infringing the ban be fined £50 and then only by an authorised person." I'll bet that something like that happened. If so, how is that that not a word about any such incident has appeared in the press? In all probablity,however, what happened was that people started smoking. Probably, a half-hearted attempt was made to stop them, which they ignored. It is probable that the 'bosses' at M/c airport had a think and decided not to push the matter. Lots of people were smoking: some left and others replaced them who saw them smoking and copied them, etc. For a time, the law was, deHundreds facto,probability unenforceable, and something had to be done to avoid a repeat, before it became generally known that this lawlessness had occurred. It must have been so.

I too was affected by the ash cloud (a flight was cancelled and I had to re-book). Even this small relaxation in M/c airport is a big, big victory. It produces a crack into which a wedge can be inserted. But we must also observe that EVENTS (or shall we say, 'unexpected consequences') can seriously undermine the ban. I understand that one of the reasons that prohibition in the USA was repealed was because people were distilling their own alcohol and killing themselves and others 'around them'. I may have mentioned before the fact that neither of my two local pubs now have 'no smoking' signs at their entrances. I have no doubt that they have pleaded with the local authority that notices that they put up are immediately torn down, and I suppose that the LA have said 'OK. We will not prosecute you. Everybody knows now anyway'. But it is against the law not to have a sign isn't it? Could you and I get away with it? No! I have no doubt that, in due course, events will erode the ban - especially if the Act has no effect on the health of the nation at all, over the next several years.

@Pat Nurse.

Pat, I love you, but can you not see from the above that ANY relaxation of the ban is better than none? I have made a suggestion of the Freedom site that Part 1 of the Health Act 2006 should be amended to define 'public places' as those places owned, leased or rented by public bodies. I doubt very much that such an amendment will be proposed, but I also suggested that, at least, outdoor shelters ought to be as good as the shelters that are required by law for pigs. I honestly believe that 'all or nothing' is not the way to go. We were betrayed by the Gov as regards wet pubs. We were betrayed by the definition of 'a substantially enclosed place' (how can a shelter with two sides open be considered to be enclosed at all, never mind 'substantially' enclosed? These are the battles which can be won. The war will be won by winning many little battles.


No doubt you have seen that people have come to your defence. I think that your idea is very good, although I doubt that C4 would be brave enough to do it. After all, C4 is very much dependent upon external funding. I agree with Dave A that any such program or video must involve the science and only the science. We would not want emotions to be involved. The beauty of such a video (to be posted on Utube or wherever) is that it needs to be done only once. It can then be reproduced at will. But it would have to be sufficiently simple for us all to understand. EG. For example, if the risk of dying from lung cancer is greater by 1% for smokers than for non-smokers, an increase in the risk which comes from passive smoking of 25% means only that the 1% becomes 1.25%.That means that if 100 lung cancers in 10000 are caused by smoking, passive smoking increases the number 100 to 125. Many people just do not understand what these figures mean.

Sorry to go on. These matters are both simple and complex at the same time. O\f course, this fact is what ASH and co rely upon to get away with their falsities.

One last thing. I have been trying to get details of the surveys which were quoted in the Observer article of a few days ago. The YouGov survey purported to have been commissioned by ASH in March 2010 does not appear in their archives. They have not as yet responded to my email asking for access to the report. The Office of National Statistics have told me that they 'cannot help' me regarding the survey which they are said to have commissioned regarding the 3% increase in pub-goers since the ban. The survey conducted by the British Lung Foundation re banning smoking in cars with under 18s present was conducted on Mumsnet - 97% of respondent were female. Those in favour of 'banning smoking in cars bla bla' were asked (words to the effect), "Do you agree that smoking should be banned in cars etc BECAUSE TOBACCO SMOKE DAMAGES CHILDREN'S LUNGS?" I have also noticed similarly leading questions on YouGov surveys.

Perhaps a different video could be made mocking these surveys. Something on the lines of a Monty Python sketch!

July 6, 2010 at 2:22 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Very well said Junican, a video on the lines of a Monty Python sketch is a great idea, it would get the immediate message across to all without having to figure out the stats, which puts people off in the first place anyway.
Something short and funny, like a send up on the lying statistics of the Antis.

July 6, 2010 at 9:13 | Unregistered Commenterann

Junican - I don't want all or nothing. I simply want something. The law is out of balance. I'll only be content when balance is returned whether that be by an amendment or a reversal. I care not.

It was wrong when we could smoke everywhere and it's wrong now that we can smoke nowhere. The key to killing this issue dead is balance and choice and respect for both sides. I'll be happy with nothing less than that.

July 6, 2010 at 14:46 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

There is another Concervative MP calling for a review of the smoking ban and you can join in the argument here

July 6, 2010 at 16:18 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Timbone, were you dreaming? Who hates smoking more than Manchester City Council, the owners of the airport. If it is true it is fantastic news. Perhaps they were sick of people asking to go back through passport control when their flights were delayed, or else smoking in the toilets.

July 6, 2010 at 17:02 | Unregistered Commenterjon

Indoor Smoking Rooms have been re-introduced in Schipol Airport, Netherlands and include state of the art Air Filtration ... yes it does work !!!!

July 8, 2010 at 15:07 | Unregistered CommenterBill Gibson

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