Category: Archive

Butts out: smoking ban on way

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The move was announced last week by Ireland’s minister for health, Micheal Martin. It follows a report from an expert group on behalf of the Office of Tobacco Control that established “without equivocation” that environmental tobacco smoke is carcinogenic.
The report said current ventilation technologies are inadequate to give workers full protection from the dangers of passive smoking.
The ban, which will also include trains and taxis, would be “a massive cultural change,” the minister said.
Publicans described the draft regulations as unworkable and a threat to jobs, but they have been welcomed by health organizations and the trade union representing bar workers.
The decree mirrors similar measures soon to be widely enforced in New York City and Boston, where in the coming months smoking will be prohibited in most bars and restaurants. The U.S. government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration already restricts smoking in most indoor workplaces.
Last November, Martin said he intended to ban smoking in restaurants and pubs when food was being served. Now he said he had no choice but to bring in a total ban. The health advice was so blunt and clear-cut that that it was no longer possible to “temporize, to negotiate, to water down” protection measures, he said. Partial bans, he added, did not work.
“I believe that in every decade, we are presented with one major choice, a choice where, if we call it right, we change the future for the better,” Martin said last Thursday in announcing the impending ban.
Tobacco smoke contains 50 known carcinogens and Martin said these affected everyone in smoke-filled atmospheres. “Our lungs,” he said, “are getting a load of cancer-causing chemicals. Fifty of them with every breath.”
Other dangers cited include a risk of developing heart disease, asthma attacks, middle-ear disease and respiratory-tract infections.
“As children grow, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke significantly reduces their lung capacity and exercise tolerance,” Martin said. “It damages the health of children right from the start: for example, it lowers birth weight.
“While the tobacco industry has played down any possibility of danger in passive smoking, the advice contained in this report is blunt. Exposure can best be controlled by banning smoking in places of work.
“The bottom line is that you don’t have to be a smoker to get cancer from cigarette smoking. You can get it if you were never a smoker.”
Martin said almost 70 percent of adults are non-smokers but are unwillingly exposed on a daily basis to “toxic environmental smoke.”
Opinion polls had shown enormous support, at almost 90 percent, for extending the ban on smoking.
“For far too long in Ireland we’ve had the habit of shrugging our shoulders about health, as if it was something that simply happened,” Martin said.

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