Plans could see smoking ban extended to outdoor food areas

Some 23% of the Irish population smoke, and about 19% smoke every day

The smoking ban could soon be extended to outdoor areas that serve food.

The proposal is set to be put before Cabinet by the Health Minister Simon Harris.

A private members motion, tabled by Fine Gael Senators, wants the Government to ban smoking in al fresco dining areas.

Pro-smoking campaigners have condemned the proposals.

John Mallon, spokesman for Forest Ireland, says: "The war on smoking is going too far. There is no justification for banning smoking outside, even where food is served.

"Smoking in the open air poses no risk to third parties and although it may occasionally be annoying for non-smokers this is a matter for the individual establishment not the Government.

"If this proposal is in response to an unintended consequence of the smoking ban, which forced smokers outside, the obvious solution is to allow comfortable, well-ventilated smoking rooms indoors."

The group says there has been no public debate about the issue and "to the best of our knowledge no consultation with the hospitality industry."

 'Forced upon non-smokers'

Fine Gael Senator, and former health minister, James Reilly proposed the idea back in February.

Senator Reilly says it should no longer be acceptable for people to smoke where others are eating.

"While our smoking ban was a really progressive move and lauded internationally, unfortunately one of the unintended consequences has been the prevalence of smokers in the outdoor areas of bars, cafés and restaurants.

"This means that nobody can enjoy a meal outdoors on a sunny day in this country, without having to inhale other people's smoke.

"Anyone spending their hard earned money in a restaurant or café should be entitled to enjoy their meal in a smoke-free environment.

"Unfortunately the prevalence of smoke can ruin the experience for non-smokers. There is no reason why this situation should be forced upon non-smokers and it is time that we moved to protect them."

A number of businesses in Dublin have already moved to ban smoking where food is served - including Jo Burger and the Metro Café.

 6,000 deaths per year

Figures from the Health Service Executive (HSE) in April 2017 showed Ireland had more quitters than smokers.

The HSE says smoking is the single biggest cause of illness, disability and death in Ireland.

Some 23% of the Irish population smoke, and about 19% smoke every day.

The HSE says 6,000 deaths in Ireland per year are attributable to smoking, with "many hundreds of thousands more" living with long-term illness and disability caused by smoking.

Smoking costs the publicly funded health services in Ireland €500m every year.

The largest group of smokers are aged 25-34.