Smoking room suggestion a huge mistake
Just when you think that the message had sunk in about the dangers of smoking and indeed passive smoking, along comes Finian McGrath.
The new Junior Health Minister has suggested that pubs and restaurants should be able to open designated 'smoking rooms' going forward.
What planet is he on? The smoking ban was one of the most successful pieces of legislation ever to be passed in Ireland and now, years after all the hype has died down, he wants to bring back smoking rooms.
Is that not what outdoor smoking areas and beer gardens have served as already? It is bad enough having 'outdoor' areas stuffed with smoke without allocating more room.
I just cannot see the logic in this. Any smoker I have spoken to has agreed that the smoking ban has done wonders and that once the habit of going outside to smoke was adopted, it was as if it was always that way.
Let's not forget the reason behind the ban - to reduce the health risks associated with smoking for non-smokers and staff members.
We are all entitled to smoke if we wish, but inflicting second hand smoke on others is unacceptable. The situation was so bad before the ban but the true extent of it wasn't apparent until we realised the joy of eating a meal without being cloaked in cigarette smoke.
Smoking and non-smoking sections are not a solution and it would be a terrible mistake to backtrack on the progress made to date. Deputy McGrath's suggestion comes after he noted similar systems in other EU countries.
Just because other EU states have this approach to public smoking, doesn't mean it would be the right decision for Ireland. These areas would still have to be staffed and nobody should be expected to work in an environment that could be detrimental to their health.
Any proposal that would be seen to encourage smoking or make it more appealing to people would be a mistake and would send the message that there is no harm is social smoking.
While it is not a Health Minister's place to try and force anyone to quit smoking it they do not want to, it is his duty to promote health and to intrduce measures to encourage us to look after our physical and mental wellbeing as much as we can.