- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 28, 2004

DUBLIN — Smokers in local pubs enjoyed their final, bittersweet puffs yesterday as Ireland prepared to impose the world’s most comprehensive ban on tobacco use in the workplace.

The ban, effective at the stroke of midnight last night, provides for hefty fines on any business that permits smoking indoors — a crackdown causing equal measures of pain and joy, particularly inside the country’s smoky public houses.

“I’m going out in a cloud of smoke,” said bricklayer Seamus McCann, who began a pub crawl as soon as Dublin’s bars opened at noon yesterday and kept two cigarettes going simultaneously as the clock ticked toward midnight.

Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, a nonsmoker and regular pubgoer, said he envisioned an Ireland where “future generations, thankfully, will never know what it was like to work in an enclosed, smoke-filled environment.”

Health Minister Michael Martin, who spearheaded the initiative after commissioning reports into the potentially deadly effects of secondhand smoke, said he expected that it would “take six weeks to two months for the ban to settle down.” His target, he said, was for more than 90 percent compliance within the year.

Several opinion polls have shown that most Irish adults — about 30 percent of whom smoke — support the government crusade against tobacco.

“It will be marvelous to have a night out, then not wake up in the morning with your hair and clothes stinking of smoke,” said homemaker Eileen Kennedy, who generally smokes a few cigarettes a week when she goes out for a drink with her husband.

Mr. Martin’s antismoking campaign — which involves graphic billboards and TV ads showing the damage cigarettes can do to the lungs, heart and brain — has inspired thousands to try to break the habit, seeking advice on nicotine-replacement therapy through a government-run hot line.

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