The senator, who spearheaded the Tobacco Free Ireland campaign when he was Minister for Health, believes it to be unacceptable that people should be allowed smoke where others are eating.
“While our smoking ban was a really progressive move and lauded internationally” the senator stated recently, “unfortunately one of the unintended consequences has been the prevalence of smokers in the outdoor areas of bars, cafés and restaurants.
“This means that nobody can enjoy a meal outdoors on a sunny day in this country without having to inhale other people’s smoke.
“Anyone spending their hard-earned money in a restaurant or café should be entitled to enjoy their meal in a smoke-free environment.
“Unfortunately, the prevalence of smoke can ruin the experience for non-smokers,” he continued, “I intend to table a debate on this matter in the Seanad and to inform the Government as to the benefits of such a ban.”
His call has been taken up by other Fine Gael senators who’ve introduced a private members motion calling on the Minister for Health to introduce such a ban and it’s understood he’s happy to take this to the Cabinet Table for a decision.
However the proposed ban is unlikely to upset the licensed trade.
“We’re going to need to see the detail of the proposal before we can comment fully and would expect that there will be consultation with the trade on how it might work,” commented LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe, “Most pubs with larger outdoor areas currently separate smoking and dining anyway in line with customer expectations.
“It’s more difficult for pubs with small outdoor areas, so the devil will be in the detail of the regulation,” he said.
It’s also important to recognise that customers who are dining do not want smoking in their vicinity and pubs are actively trying to accommodate that, he added before concluding, “The use of outdoor space is obviously hugely weather-dependent so this issue will not arise for much of the year in Ireland anyway”.
VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben agreed that publicans are managing the current regulations in a very proactive way and that it’s very difficult to see any reason for change at this time.
“Our understanding is that this was just a Private Members motion brought to the Seanad and there is little or no detail available on actual proposals or provisions,” he told Drinks Industry Ireland, “It’s difficult to comment in the absence of same.”