The prospect of keeping outdoor seating areas smoke-free would be welcomed as part of efforts to ensure more space in restaurants when they reopen, according to the head of the Restaurants Association of Ireland.
The Royal College of Physicians' (RCPI) Policy Group on Tobacco has written to the Health Minister, asking for all outdoor areas in bars to be made non-smoking zones as the country reopens.
With the need for increased social distancing, the RCPI group has argued that customers who may now be seated in the outdoor areas of bars should not be exposed to secondhand smoke.
Adrian Cummins of the Restaurants Association of Ireland and Padraig Cribben of the Vintners Federation of Ireland spoke to The Hard Shoulder about the idea.
Mr Cummins said the introduction of smoke-free outdoor areas is something some businesses would welcome as part of efforts to increase capacity.
He observed: “A straw poll of business owners that I’ve spoken to would welcome it, in line with getting more space for their business.
“From a smokers point of view, I can’t see any reason why a smoker can’t excuse themselves from a table and stand outside the enclosed area of outdoor seating if they so wish."
He said that many restaurant owners will need to double their outdoor seating spaces for the businesses to remain viable amid social distancing measures.
He explained: “If a business decides they want to have a no smoking policy in place - that’s up to them. There’s no law in place at the moment to ban it… but I think common sense will prevail at the end of the day.
“We’ve looked for local authorities to relax and scrap table and chair licencing fees, and utilise the pavements… to give more space to all types of retail, including the hospitality industry."
Mr Cribben, meanwhile, emphasised that the proposal for no smoking zones is still just a proposal at the moment.
He said: “This is a kite being flown by people who have an interest in making sure nobody smokes.
"The reality is that whether its publicans or restaurateurs… they will take whatever measures they feel necessary to ensure the safety of their customers."
Mr Cribben noted there are "massive, massive headaches ahead" for everybody in the sector, and that they're hoping to meet with the Government soon to discuss the reopening plans.