Ireland’s smoking ban heralded a success

Air quality in Irish pubs has, predictably, improved since smoking was banned in March, but now figures have been released that show just how much of a difference it has made.

Ireland’s Office of Tobacco Control (OTC) has published a report with results from several research projects inspired by the ban.

A study of air quality in 40 Dublin pubs monitored levels of air pollution in pubs before and after the introduction of the smoke-free law.

The study measured the level of particulates, both PM10 and the tiny PM2.5, as they are the main constituents of tobacco smoke containing chemicals known to be harmful.

While there was a significant drop in the levels of both sizes of particulates, the results were most striking for PM2.5, which were reduced by almost 88%.

PM10 levels had fallen by a still impressive 53%.

The OTC report also shows that carbon monoxide levels in bar workers has also seen a substantial drop as their exposure to second hand smoke has fallen.

The study showed a reduction of 45% in non-smoking bar staff and a 36% reduction in ex-smokers.

Bar workers also reported a fall in ailments associated with a smoky environment such as red eyes, breathing difficulties and coughs.

As well as the immediate and quantifiable health benefits, the ban is also influencing the number of smokers in Ireland, with less people now lighting up and many of those who have given up citing the ban as helpful.

Although the law faced stiff opposition before its introduction, it is now overwhelmingly popular with 93% of people agreeing the ban is a good idea.

The OTC’s chairman, Dr Michael Boland said, “The smoke-free workplace legislation has already brought health benefits to the public as early research indicators are highlighting.

“Ireland has led the way on introducing such legislation, with five other EU countries following suit and many more engaging in debate on the matter.”

“It must be stressed that while the smoke-free workplace legislation is the country’s most well-known tobacco control measure, it is only one part of a wider suite of measures which we know are effective. We must continue to pursue these.”

Ireland’s success will be noted with interest in the UK, where environmental innovations from its nearest neighbour are often adopted once they have a proven track record.

The smoking ban, for example, has already had an influence on policy in Northern Ireland while the controversial Irish ban on plastic shopping bags could soon be adopted by the Scots.

By Sam Bond

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