Irish pubs keep spark despite a decade smoke-free

March 28, 2014 by Conor Barrins

Ten years ago this week, landlord Christy Ruane feared the introduction of the smoking ban in Ireland would stub out his business, and with it the popularity of the traditional Irish pub.

On March 29 2004, Ireland became the first country in the world to adopt a total workplace smoking ban.

Controversially, that included the traditional pubs where a cigarette was once as part of the scenery as pints of Guinness, traditional Irish music and peat fires.

"We thought it was going to interfere with our business," Ruane told AFP at the Coachman's Inn, the bar he has run near Mountbellew in Galway on Ireland's west coast for the past 40 years.

"The introduction of the smoking ban was a big departure and we were very, very wary."

But a decade later his fears of losing his customers—mainly elderly farmers who liked to have a cigarette with their pint—have gone up in smoke.

"We thought they were going to get upset with the idea they could no longer smoke in the pub, but it all worked out fine in the end," he said as he leaned across the bar.

"I would desperately hate to think that cigarettes could be introduced back into the pubs again," he said, with the only smoke now coming from a wood-burning stove inside the pub.

"At least you can get up in the morning and put on your clothes and not smell like cigarettes," he added, reaching down to pet his terrier dog who had wandered into the bar.

- Really positive effect -

In The King's Head pub in Galway city centre, bar manager Stephen Murphy told AFP the ban had had a "really positive effect" on customers and staff.

"There was obviously a period of time when the smoking ban came in where it was obviously affecting sales, but very quickly it generated additional business."

He said that many pubs had now "gone down the food route as it's better to have that in a non-smoking environment".

Ireland broke new ground in the global battle against tobacco-related illnesses, and its workplace smoking ban has since been taken up by many other countries.

But when the then-minister for health Micheal Martin first announced that the ban was to come into effect, publicans rallied against the move fearing it would hit an already struggling sector.

Padraig Cribbon, chief executive of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), said those "concerns were well-justified."

"If you look at the intervening 10 years, there has been a significant drop in the pub trade. Not all down to the smoking ban, but it certainly was a contributory factor."

Figures provided by the VFI show the number of licensed premises fell from 7,831 in 2005 to 6,565 last year—a drop of over 1,200 in less than a decade.

But a study by Trinity College Dublin published last year found the overall impact of the Irish smoking ban on bar sales appeared to be very small.

Tobacco-free Ireland

Originally the ban was introduced to reduce workers' exposure to passive smoke but a by-product of the ban has been a fall in the smoking prevalence rate.

Irish health service figures show a drop from almost 29 percent in March 2004 to 21.5 percent at the end of last year.

But separate data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development last November showed Ireland had a prevalence rate of 29 percent, well above the OECD average and above the likes of France, Poland and China.

"We can't be complacent," the Health Service Executive's Dave Molloy told AFP.

"We still have 750,000 smokers in Ireland and we still have in the order of 5,000-plus people a year dying from tobacco-related diseases."

Last October, the government announced plans to make Ireland a tobacco-free country by 2025.

Measures include plain packaging on cigarette boxes and banning smoking in cars when children are present.

The has had some unintended consequences—as smoking areas in pubs and nightclubs have become one of the most popular areas to socialise.

"I'm a non-smoker and I spend most of my night in the smoking area now because that's where the craic (fun) is," Laura Collins told AFP on Galway's Shop Street.

Explore further: Glance: US smoking over 50 years

Related Stories

Glance: US smoking over 50 years

February 5, 2014
Some key events and adult smoking rates in the fight over tobacco during the last 50 years in the U.S.:

Senegal law bans smoking in public

March 16, 2014
Senegal's health minister says lawmakers have banned tobacco advertising and smoking in public places.

Cigarette vending machines banned in England

October 1, 2011
Cigarette vending machines were banned in England on Saturday, a move the government hopes will cut the numbers of children smoking.

Smoking bans lead to less, not more, smoking at home: study

February 13, 2012
Smoking bans in public/workplaces don't drive smokers to light up more at home, suggests a study of four European countries with smoke free legislation, published online in Tobacco Control.

Jordan hookah ban sparks public outcry

February 5, 2014
There's no smoke without ire: a ban on water pipes in restaurants and cafes has caused uproar in Jordan where $1 billion worth of tobacco goes up in smoke every year.

Recommended for you

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Study finds 275,000 calls to poison control centers for dietary supplement exposures from 2000 through 2012

July 24, 2017
U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding dietary supplement exposures, according to a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.