Leprechauns Love Smoke-Free Pubs

March 17, 2011

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If you're having a pint for St. Patrick's Day — and sipping in a smoke-free bar — be sure to tip your hat to Ireland, too.

In March 2004, the Republic of Ireland became the first country in the world to implement a comprehensive, nationwide smoke-free law for all workplaces, including restaurants and pubs. At first, there was widespread disbelief that it could happen in a nation where smoking and drinking were so much a part of local culture. Television crews from around the world turned up in Dublin to record what was heralded as a stunning — if uncertain — change.

The smoke-free law became an instant success, with virtually all workplaces complying and 98 percent of the public (including 94 percent of smokers) saying their workplaces are healthier because of smoke-free air.

Just as important is Ireland's role as a global trendsetter: The Emerald Isle proved to the world that smoke-free laws work even where there was an expectation of cultural resistance, and despite considerable opposition from the tobacco industry. Since Ireland took its groundbreaking action, 23 more countries — on every continent — have enacted 100 percent smoke-free laws to protect everyone's right to breathe clean air.

Nigeria may soon become the 25th smoke-free nation. A comprehensive tobacco-control bill that requires smoke-free public places passed the Senate earlier this week, and now moves to final legislative negotiations.

As of March 2011, 24 countries have implemented 100 percent indoor smoke-free policies

More than 200 million people worldwide are now protected by comprehensive smoke-free air laws. The 172 nations that are party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are required to adopt effective smoke-free laws without loopholes. If this public health treaty is properly implemented, more than 87 percent of the world’s population will be breathing smoke-free air.

We’ll toast to that.