It comes after a public consultation exercise found 91 percent of respondents wanted a total ban and has been welcomed by all four main political parties in Northern Ireland.
“This is an historic decision for Northern Ireland,” said the British minister responsible for health, Shaun Woodward, himself a smoker until six months ago. “This is not about banning smoking. People have that freedom of choice.
“What this decision is about is where people smoke. I have looked extensively at all the arguments for and against smoking controls. I visited New York and the Republic of Ireland to find out if their smoking controls had worked. They did work.
“In fact, there was overwhelming support from the public and workers in both countries which was why the introduction of smoking controls was so successful,” Woodward said.
“Yes, people have a right to smoke. But no-one has a right to subject the public, colleagues and workmates to the dangers.”
Ten out of 11 trades unions consulted, he said, supported the ban. “From my visit to New York, I learnt the staggering fact that a non-smoker on an eight-hour shift in a bar could inhale the equivalent of 10 cigarettes a day.
“People arguing against total control point to ventilation being a solution. Ventilation doesn’t work. A partial ban would have meant protecting workers in some workplaces but not in bars and pubs. Where’s the social justice in that?
“Smoking is the principle cause of the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor. Since many of those working in the hospitality industry tend to be poorly paid, it means we continue to expose second-hand smoke to the poorest people.
“I have no doubt this legislation will help save lives. It will give people the incentive to give up smoking. This has already happened in the Republic, where the numbers of smokers has fallen from one in three to less than one in four.”
Welcoming the announcement, the DUP health spokesperson, Iris Robinson, said, “A partial ban would have represented a nonsensical position. It was essential that the health rights of all employees, particularly in the hospitality sector, were respected equally.
“Legislation to ban smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces will protect the health of all workers and will develop supportive environments to encourage people to quit or reduce their consumption,” she said.