The consequences of a ban on smoking in outdoor eating areas
Sunday, April 29, 2018 at 12:04
Simon Clark

A proposal by former health minster James Reilly to extend the smoking ban to outdoor eating areas in Ireland is dividing opinion.

Writing in yesterday's Irish Independent, columnist Ian O'Doherty (above) commented:

The only reason I am reluctant to call Reilly and his ilk a bunch of single-issue fanatics is because he'd probably thank me for the compliment - after all, he has previously described tobacco companies as 'evil' and pompously declared 'war' on smoking.

In true tinpot-tyrant fashion, they are determined to make Ireland 'smoke free' by 2025 - an idea that is ludicrous, totalitarian and, like all their plans, unworkable.

The problem with these ideas is that they want to completely remove the individual autonomy of grown adults and private businesses and concentrate all such decisions in the hands of the State.

If a private bar or restaurant wants to accommodate smokers in their outside areas, that is an issue between the patrons and the management. If people are staying away from their place because of smoking, they won't allow it.

That is entirely their call to make. You see, the market always works things out far better than any politician, even a colossus like James Reilly, ever could.

See Latest smoking proposals are about control, not health.

Meanwhile the Sunday Times Ireland today reports that 'Proposals to ban smoking in outdoor eating areas may make pubs stub out their dining options instead.'

Carol McCann, a restaurant supervisor at the Harbourmaster bar and restaurant in Dublin, points out that, thanks to Ireland’s complete lack of sunny weather -amounting to all of two days in the past eight months - choosing whether to facilitate outdoor smokers or diners is a no-brainer.

“It wouldn’t be that big an issue for us,” said McCann. “For the three sunny days we get in Ireland each year, that is the only time our outdoors areas are used for eating.”

Smokers, on the other hand, use the outdoors areas all year round. “Our whole building is for diners, so I’d leave outside for the smokers.”

Even in warner climates the cost of banning smoking outside has "unintended consequences". Only last week, in Australia, the Herald Sun reported:

Customers are being banned from eating outside so smokers can puff away with impunity at some cafes and restaurants in Victoria. Dozens of eateries in Melbourne's east have transformed outdoor dining areas into smoking safe spaces after new laws banning cigarettes around food came into effect ...

The full report is behind a paywall but you get the gist.

Back in Ireland, the Sunday Times quotes Forest spokesman John Mallon and includes some fascinating information that will interest those of you who supported Forest's well-publicised opposition to proposals to extend the smoking ban to outdoor areas in Brighton:

Brighton and Hove city council considered banned smoking on Brighton beach, but surveys indicated insufficient public support for the move.

The council also considered a ban in outdoor dining areas, but settled for a voluntary scheme. Initially many food businesses indicated that they would sign up, but last week the council said just four had done so.

Verity Craig is the owner of Bohemia, a bar and restaurant in Brighton which has two outdoor areas. She never considered signing up to the voluntary scheme to convert weather of them into a non-smoking area.

That is because, in five years in business, she has never received a complaint from diners about smoking.

Fancy that!

What these reports tell me is that, far from being an insignificant minority, smokers still have some clout.

The number of people who want to smoke when they are out socialising is not inconsiderable and the hospitality industry is generally keen to accommodate them, if they can.

Moreover, the objections to smoking outside are coming not from fellow diners (by and large) but from a tiny coterie of professional anti-smokers.

With this in mind I think we have a chance of winning this battle but opposition voices must be much louder and more persistent than they have been.

I understand why many of you are weary of fighting the tobacco control industry and feel the war on smoking is going in only one direction, but that's no reason to throw in the towel.

In Brighton we demonstrated the importance of making our voices heard (see Brighton - common sense prevails) and we need to do so again ... and again.

The consequence of a ban on smoking in outdoor eating areas in Ireland would almost certainly encourage similar action from devolved parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and local authorities in England.

Although some businesses might choose to allow smoking in preference to eating, the likely outcome of that is that tobacco control campaigners will then demand a complete ban on smoking outside pubs, restaurants and cafes, regardless of whether people are eating or merely drinking.

I know that, you know that.

Worse – and unlike Ireland where the authorities regularly turn a blind eye to minor infractions of the law on smoking in enclosed public places – the UK will no doubt enforce any new regulations to the nth degree.

So, still much to play for. I'll keep you posted.

Article originally appeared on Simon Clark (
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