One Year After Ireland’s Smokefree Law: A Story of Success. Now British Public Demands Action

Tuesday 29 March 2005

ASH news release: Tuesday 29th March 2005
Ireland’s smokefree law is one year old today (Tuesday 29th March). The law has been a major health success, is widely observed without much enforcement being needed, and has overwhelming public support. Meanwhile, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has revealed that public support for smokefree laws in Britain is now greater than it was in Ireland before their law was passed.

Key facts about the Irish law are:

  • According to Euromonitor International, sales of cigarettes in Ireland fell 8.7% last year, when the ban was implemented, after declining 3.4% in 2003, and 1.2% in 2002. Gallaher Tobacco, the market leader in Ireland, has reported that Irish sales dropped 10.7% from January and October of last year.
  • Support for the law increased after its introduction. Irish Marketing Surveys (commissioned by the Department of Health) reported in Summer 2004 that 82% of the public backed the smokefree law, and 90% agreed it would benefit workers. 70% reported that it improved their experience in pubs, and 78 said it improved their experience in restaurants.
  • Figures released in February 2005 by the Central Statistics Office of Ireland ( show that the value of bar sales in Ireland fell by 3,5% between April and December 2004, compared to the same period in 2003. The decrease of the value of sales is in line with the decrease of the volume of sales in the bars in Ireland, which began in 2001, well before the smokefree law was introduced.
  • The Irish Office of Tobacco Control ([now closed]) reported in December 2004 that compliance levels with the new law are high.  Compliance levels are reported at:
    – 94% in hotels;
    – 99% in restaurants;
    – 91% in licensed premises.
  • According to the Irish Examiner (March 21st 2005) fewer than 20 prosecutions have been required since the introduction of the smokefree law.

ASH reports that the latest opinion poll carried out by BMRB (fieldwork in January 2005) shows that 78% of the British public support a smokefree law covering ALL workplaces, including all pubs and all restaurants [1]. In Ireland, a poll by TRNS mrbi carried out for the Irish Office of Tobacco Control in June 2003 showed support for a smokefree law including bars and restaurants at 67%.

ASH Director Deborah Arnott comments:

“The Irish smokefree law has been a resounding triumph. It is popular. It needs little enforcement. The dire predictions of the drinks trade have proved false, but cigarette sales have fallen and public health is improving as a result. This experience shows that bold political moves can be successful and popular.


In this country, the halfway house of the public health White Paper – with its bodged plans to exempt some pubs and private clubs – cannot stand.It is past time for the British Government to show similar courage, follow the example of Ireland and of the Scottish Executive, and bring smokefree workplaces and public places to Britain. Ireland deserves the applause and support of everyone who wants to cut the terrible damage done by smoking and to improve public health.”

– ENDS –

[1] Detailed results of the BMRB poll as follows:


Q6        The Government has announced plans to make most public places smokefree from 2008. Would you support a proposal to make ALL workplaces – including all pubs and all restaurants smokefree?


  All   Never smoked Ex


Current smoker
  %   % % %
Yes 75   89 77 48
No 23   10 21 50
Don’t know 2   1 3 2

            (Base = 1003)


The survey was conducted by BMRB International and involved 1003 interviews with adults aged 16 years and over in Great Britain. The survey was part of BMRB’s Access Omnibus survey and fieldwork was carried out between 28th and 30th January 2005. The BMRB Access Omnibus survey is representative of the GB adult population. Sampling is designed to ensure that the survey’s respondents correctly reflect the demography – gender, age, social grade, region etc – of the population being researched. The survey uses random digit dialling (RDD) to ensure that numbers not listed in telephone directories can still be included in the sample. Each residential number has an equal chance of being dialled.