An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Thursday, January 30, 2003  

Ban on Smoking in Pubs

Ireland's Minister for Health, Michael Martin, has announced that from January 2004, there will be a complete ban on smoking in the workplace to include pubs and restaurants. The reaction from non-smokers and smokers is overwhelmingly positive. From a nation normally highly suspicious of government regulation of personal behaviour, this is a welcome surprise. We are usually vulnerable to accusations that we are a peasant race willing to disobey the government at any opportunity. Anti-government behaviour, usually interpreted (in an adulatory fashion) as some form of post-colonial inevitability, can range from false claims for welfare payments, tax-dodging, littering, total disregard for planning regulations and electing one-issue nutters to the Dail.

The welcome for this anti-smoking move seems to acknowledge that the general public can spot a move that is related solely to public health and safety and isn't some unnecessary bureaucratic move that will stifle our legendary character. Hats off to Minister Martin. This smoking ban of his will capture the public imagination and this decision will be ranked alongside those of Mary Harney's coal ban, Bobby Molloy's taxi deregulation and Seamus Brennan's introduction of penalty points. All ministers who were given 1001 reasons why something which the people wanted couldn't be done. All Ministers who went ahead and made their move anyway.

The Tobacco Companies will of course be furious. Philip Morris recognised in 1994 that workplace bans were really bad for business "The immediate implication (of smoking bans) for our business is clear. If our consumers have fewer opportunities to enjoy our products, they will use them less frequently and the result will be an adverse impact on our bottom line." (see White Lies site) But here's the funny thing. Philip Morris themselves have been forced into implementing a workplace ban in their own factories, not just in Australia but even in their own offices in New York ( can't locate that link just now).

Clearly this is influenced by the threat of litigation. But, I'm wondering...if they've accepted that smoking is on the way out, it can only mean two things. Firstly they are giving up on the 'developed' world and are going to devote themselves to targeting developing nations (does China fall into that bracket). In addition they are giving up on the tobacco industry and are sneaking into other industries. Just take a look at their website - the sanitisation as begun. Philip Morris the brand (signifying evil corporate behaviour) is gone and the harmless and benign Altria group takes his place..that guess what...owns Kraft. They've gone from tobacco to food. Will you look at Kraft foods in a slightly different way now?

posted by Sarah | 17:18 0 comments
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