The Government has said there are no plans for national smoking bans in parks and beaches.
In a statement, the Department of Health said its Tobacco Free Ireland programme aims to promote “tobacco-free environments” in parks, beaches and children’s playgrounds.
It said it aims to so by encouraging local authorities to introduce byelaws and voluntary measures.
“There are no current plans to legislate for smoke-free outdoor areas,” the Department said.
“Voluntary local actions are successful. As set out in the 2021 Tobacco Free Ireland Annual Report, the ‘Not Around Us’ Campaign, made up of local groups implementing smoke free spaces in their own areas, has continued to grow.
“Local Authorities in Wexford, Galway, and Meath launched their campaigns in 2021, promoting smoke free campuses in playgrounds and parks.”
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, former minister of state for disabilities Finian McGrath said the Department of Health should be focused on the real problems in the health service.
“I just find it very, very strange considering we have huge problems with our health services,” he said.
“A&Es, trollies, people on waiting lists, CF children waiting for months for drugs while department and drugs companies bicker over the prices – and their big idea this morning is to go after smokers.
“Again, soft targets. In outdoor spaces, on beaches and public parks.
“I just think there is an element of picking on a soft target, an element of the nanny state and I also think that it is not particularly very persuasive as part of a major health strategy.”
Mr McGrath said all smokers recognise that the habit is not good for your health; however, if you want to help them quit, you have to work with them, not against them.
“The whole health thinking and the message behind the whole plan, I feel, is an overreaction by the department in relation to open spaces,” he said.
“The way forward, if you are serious about persuading people, every single smoker in the country - and as you know I am one myself - every single day we try and give up. It is an addiction. So, the way forward is education and persuasion and all of that strategy.
“Not excluding people or marginalising people.
“Open spaces are out in the fresh air. Most smokers totally respect non smokers and that is why designated areas in pubs and spaces like that should be allowed because you’re not harming anyone else.
“I think there is an element of the moral police coming out there. There is a lot of hypocrisy from Department of Health officials and also from broader society.
“Driving smokers underground and marginalising them never ever works.”
The new proposals come after surveys recorded a slight increase in smoking last year.
Roughly half of smokers reported changes in smoking behaviours over the pandemic – with 28% saying they were now smoking than pre-pandemic.
Ireland became the first country in the world to outlaw smoking in the workplace 18 years ago.