Government announces smoking ban plans

The Government has today confirmed plans to introduce a partial smoking ban in Northern Ireland.

However, Health Minister Shaun Woodward said it would be another few months before he decided whether to bring in a blanket ban on smoking in all public enclosed places.

"The remaining few months will be about whether it is a total ban or a partial ban," he said on Tuesday.

The Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke Association said today was a defining day for the health of the people of Northern Ireland.

Welcoming the Minister’s statement, Chief Executive, Andrew Dougal, said: “A clear and resounding message has been given to our new Health Minister to ensure that the people here are able to live and to work in smoke-free environments.”

Northern Ireland’s largest business organisation, the Federation of Small Businesses also welcomed the news but warned the Health Minister that he must get his decision right, on whether the ban will be total or not.

FSB spokesperson on Health & Safety, Harry McGimpsey, said: “Too many people die of cancer as a result of smoking in Northern Ireland for the Government to duck this issue. They must get it right.”

However, not everyone was happy with today’s announcement. Cancer charity Macmillan Cancer Relief criticised Mr Woodward for delaying a decision on banning smoking in public places until the autumn.

“Following the overwhelming response to the government's consultation, in which an incredible 91% of people were reportedly in favour of a ban, the minister holds an enviably strong public mandate to move ahead with comprehensive legislation,” Heather Monteverde of Macmillan in Northern Ireland said.

"For him to instead decide to delay a decision risks seeing Northern Ireland's health record fall behind those of our neighbours in the Republic and Scotland."

Former Stormont Health Minister, Bairbre de Brún also expressed her disappointment at the delayed decision.

“I fail to understand why Mr Woodward has taken the opportunity to make a key note speech concerning a smoking ban, if he is delaying the decision until he receives further information,” the Sinn Fein MEP said. “This research should have been conducted and fully concluded before this announcement.”

Figures released in the Republic of Ireland recently, marking the first anniversary of a smoking ban on all public places in the south, revealed that more than 7,000 smokers had kicked the habit since the ban was introduced.

However, while supporters of the ban said it had brought many health benefits, critics say more people are drinking and smoking at home while many publicans say they have lost considerable trade.


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