Vice Squad
Sunday, March 28, 2004
Irish Smoking Ban is Here

A nationwide ban on smoking in pubs, restaurants and offices has come into force in Ireland. (Vice Squad has plenty of material on smoking bans -- here, for example. I am sure there was something on the upcoming ban in Ireland too, but I couldn’t find it.) The prime motivation has been apparently to reduce the number of deaths from smoking, government expenditures on smoking-related illnesses, and losses to productivity. This type of reasoning is eerily reminiscent of the arguments used by Mr. Gorbachev’s government to justify tough restrictions on drinking in the former USSR in the mid-1980’s. That experiment didn’t work too well. BTW, in my one visit to Ireland (which incidentally happened together with the good host of Vice Squad) I found the Irish to be in many ways similar to the Russians, although it was harder for me to understand their accents. Among other things, in my experience, the Irish drunk a lot and were not particularly respectful of government regulations. I suspect Vice Squad will follow the developments in Ireland in this respect.

Apparently, the Irish experience will be closely followed also by other governments that try to impose healthy lives on their citizens. In particular, Scotland's government appears to be getting frustrated with the failure of the "voluntary bans" to take root in 90% of food-serving establishments. And when governments notice that their recommendations do not work on a voluntary basis, they often tend to blame the "voluntary" part and not the substance of the recommendations.

Interestingly, according to at least one survey, 20% of the Irish said they would visit the pubs more often once the ban is in place. If an increase in pub attendance does occur, I wonder how that would affect the death rate, government expenditures on health, and productivity losses.

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