30/04/2007

Northern Ireland smoking ban comes into effect

Smokers across Northern Ireland are no longer able to light up in enclosed spaces as the ban on smoking has come into force at 6am this morning.

The ban in the province will mean it is illegal to smoke in most enclosed public spaces like pubs, restaurants and workplaces, as well as public transport.

It has been introduced two months before England, a month after the Welsh ban and three years after the Irish Republic introduced the ban. Scotland also introduced the ban last March.

Health Minister Paul Goggins has praised the new law, saying it would save lives.

“Second-hand smoke is a toxic cocktail of around 4,000 chemicals – many of which cause cancer,” he said.

“It is internationally accepted that there can be no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.

“Non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke are 20%-30% more likely to develop lung cancer – not to mention the other illnesses and diseases, By reducing your level of exposure, this legislation will improve health and save lives.”

Environmental Health Officers and other specialised no smoking officials have been employed to ensure the ban is upheld.

Chief Environmental Officer, Nigel McMahon said: “In the main, Environmental Health Officers will be carrying out this role as part of their routine work and enforcement action will be taken where it is warranted.

“In addition, the Department has agreed to provide funding to supplement enforcement. This is particularly in respect of premises that council officers would not normally visit for other reasons and for work outside of normal hours.”

Any smoker who insists on breaching the ban will be subject to a fixed penalty notice of £50 while businesses face fines of up to £2,500 if they fail to enforce the ban.

Major health charities have supported the ban, including the Health Promotion Agency, Ulster Cancer Foundation, Action Cancer, the British Medical Association and Chest, Heart and Stroke NI.

Gerry McElwee, the Head of Cancer Prevention, said: "We are absolutely confident that it will be an overwhelming success.

"All around the world smoke-free legislation has improved health, been implemented easily and had no negative economic impact."

He also added research showed public support at 95% - well ahead of the 81% recorded in the rest of the United Kingdom.

(JM/KMcA)

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