30/04/2008

Smoke-Free Laws Successful?

It's a year on since the predicted 'death' of the licensed trade in Northern Ireland - as the much debated smoke-free legislation was introduced.

However, figures show that things weren't as bad as expected as the high level of compliance (97%) across Northern Ireland is hailed as a sure sign of the support for the smoke-free legislation.

That was the message this week from NI Health Minister Michael McGimpsey as he celebrated the fact that the majority of enclosed work and public places have enjoyed a healthier, smoke-free environment for a year.

He said that key provisional compliance figures, up to the end of March, are that the no smoking compliance rate is 97%; 94% of premises complying with the signage requirements; 177 fixed penalty notices were issued; 1,478 written warnings were issued and a total of total of 36,240 premises inspected.

The Minister said: "It is no understatement to say that this legislation has been a major milestone for public health.

"The benefits are quite clear. When at work and out socialising, we are no longer exposed to toxic second hand smoke - smoke that contains over 4,000 chemicals, many of which cause cancer, from which we previously had little or no protection.

"One year into our smoke-free legislation, it is now incredibly difficult to imagine it being any other way.

"We do not want to breathe in other people’s smoke and I am delighted that for everyone in Northern Ireland, and for the generations to come, the smoke-free environment will be the norm.

"Support is clearly high and I am sure will remain so in the years to come," he commented.

The Minister concluded: "Too many people are dying prematurely in Northern Ireland due to smoking related illnesses. It also remains the principal cause of health inequality here.

"I am however hopeful that the smoke-free legislation, coupled with the fact that more smokers than ever are deciding to quit the habit, will go some way towards my aim of a smoke-free society."

Meanwhile, the licensed trade hasn't seen the mass closures predicted and customers are still able to smoke - in outdoor areas set aside for them - and are reporting that it is a great opportunity to socialise too.

(BMcC)

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