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Health Minister looks to ban smoking in outdoor dining areas

Health Minister Simon Harris is to seek Cabinet approval today for a proposal to ban smoking in outdoor areas where food is served.

The idea was first tabled as a private members motion by Fine Gael Senators, including James Reilly, who introduced anti-tobacco measures during his time as Minister for Health.

"While our smoking ban was a really progressive move and lauded internationally," he stated previously.

"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."

Campaigners have condemned the move. John Mallon, spokesman for the smokers' group Forest Ireland, said: "The war on smoking is going too far. There is no justification for banning smoking outside, even where food is served.

"Smoking in the open air poses no risk to third parties and although it may occasionally be annoying for non-smokers this is a matter for the individual establishment, not the Government.

"If this proposal is in response to an unintended consequence of the smoking ban, which forced smokers outside, the obvious solution is to allow comfortable, well-ventilated smoking rooms indoors."

"There has been no public debate about this issue and, to the best of our knowledge, no consultation with the hospitality industry.

"A large number of pubs closed following the smoking ban in 2004. This proposal could have a similar impact on cafes and restaurants because many more smokers could decide to stay at home."