THOUSANDS of euro in fines have been handed out to businesses and private individuals found guilty of breaching the smoking ban, with one pub being hit with a huge €2,500 penalty in the past 12 months.
New figures revealed by the Office of Tobacco Control (OTC) show that last year a total of 25 people were brought to court due to anti-smoking legislation offences.
Of these people, 19 were convicted under the smoking in the workplace act, resulting in fines of between €500 and €2,500.
According to the OTC’s annual report, 18 cases brought to court related to pubs, one to a hotel, five to taxi firms, and one to an amusement arcade.
A total of 11 cases were taken against businesses that allowed smoking in areas which were not authorised by the legislation, five against businesses that permitted smoking in another illegal area, and three to private individuals who refused to comply with the legislation while in a public place.
The HSE Dublin North East area — which comprises of the north side of the capital, Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan — had the highest number of cases and convictions, with the 10 individuals brought to court found guilty of breaching the health and safety in the workplace law.
This was followed by the HSE West (10 cases, six convictions), the HSE South (four cases, three convictions) and HSE Dublin Mid Leinster (one case, no convictions).
Despite the large level of fines imposed, the official OTC figures indicate an increasing support for the smoking ban as more convictions took place in 2007 (47), 2006 (37) and 2005 (45) than last year.
Among the other issues raised by the group’s annual report was that 98% of stores are now compliant with new laws imposed on tobacco advertising in 2009.
The group’s National Tobacco Retail Audit – 2009 Monitoring report also indicates that the number of retailers refusing to sell cigarettes to customers who are under the age of 18 has also risen, to 68%, compared to just 52% in 2007.
OTC chairperson Norma Cronin said the figures are a further sign of the benefits of tough smoking legislation in this country.
“Tobacco is the leading cause of premature death in Ireland as there are 6,000 deaths each year from tobacco-related diseases.
“We need to build on our ground-breaking legislation and other actions to deliver reduced smoking rates and a decrease in tobacco related deaths,” she said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved