The smoking ban
During the past two weeks, I have come to know the Irish as a people that is weary of rules. At most occasions, they will do whatever lies in their reach to avoid complying with them. I was expecting that they would also have their reserves about the smoking ban. Introduced in 2004, it made Ireland the first country worldwide where smoking was prohibited in public places, including pubs and restaurants. The law was not granted a very warm welcome. Smoking was socially acceptable in Ireland and it remains so in present times. But three years have past since the law was passed and the opinion seems to have turned around in favour of the smoking ban. With similar laws soon to be passed in the rest of Europe, I spent my last day in Ireland finding out about people`s thoughts and comments on the matter.
All throughout the day, I only find one person prepared to tell me that the smoking ban was maybe not the best solution to the problem. Paul (39) is co-managing a pub just outside the centre of Dublin and he claims that the ban has been detrimental to their revenues, and to those of pubs on the countryside. `People move away from the pub as a social meeting place. Neighbours in villages who used to meet up in the pub to have a pint and a cigarette together now meet at home and go to the off-licence shop to buy their beer. The government should have proposed alternative arrangements or exceptions for specified areas within the pubs.` He also mentions the anti-drink-and-drive campaign as a threat to the social pub culture, but to the same extent, Paul sees the advantages of both measures. It`s healthier for non-smokers and also for smokers who are now more likely to quit smoking. On top of that, it is easy to engage in conversation with people outside a pub. There is less noise, and the Irish weather always leaves room for some comments to be shared.
`I am a smoker, but I am perfectly fine with the smoking ban for pubs and restaurants`
Stewart (25) stands outside an office building when I walk by. He doesn`t like the smoking ban during winter, but otherwise he`s fine with it. David (38) and Pamela (40), enjoying a pint inside a bar, are smokers and they call the ban `fantastic` and they are not the only one who describe it in that way. Many people have started smoking less since the ban was introduced: fewer cigarettes per person or they have simply quit smoking at all. One negative side effect is that people are more likely to get into fights, because they go outside for a smoke while they are drunk. That does not always work out well with the audience of adjacent pubs also standing outside in undefined states of mind.
Marie (30) is French and she has a very detailed opinion. As a fanatic smoker herself, she misses the joy of lighting a social cigarette in the pub. She also thinks that authorities should not interfere too much with people`s personal behaviour and gives me a nice French quote: `Too much freedom kills the freedom, too many prohibitions kill the prohibitions'. For restaurants, the story is different: she is completely in favour of the ban. 'People should be able to enjoy their meals without any smoke bothering them.
Bill (39, photo) thinks it`s just a perfect measure even though he is a smoker as well. He likes how people now gather in front of pub doors and the social background it provides. Just like him, Alan (25) is very positive about the ban and about the way pubs have dealt with the change. They have been very keen in providing beer gardens in the open air, which according to Alan adds greatly to the pub experience.
Putting it all together, only three stakeholders in the affair have proved to be a challenge to the smoking ban: weather-wise it may not be very convenient for smokers, money-wise the tobacco industry suffers and so do pubs who are not able to adapt to the new situations. Pros: people who have got used to the smoking ban perfectly agree with its usefulness, it`s healthier for both smokers and non-smokers and it keeps the clothes a bit fresher after a night out.
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