In the first major industry revolt against the controversial health initiative, the county’s 380 publicans voted unanimously not to enforce the ban.
It also emerged yesterday that the board of the North West Tourism, which covers Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan, is to write to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern expressing its opposition to the smoking ban.
Kerry VFI chairman John O’Sullivan said publicans would be implementing their own contingency plans, including no-smoking areas.
He accused the Government of “two timing” on the tobacco issue, taking revenue from sales, while expecting publicans to do the dirty work to stamp out smoking.
“If the Government is sincere about its anti-smoking campaign, it should take cigarettes off the market altogether and stop taking two-thirds of the price of a packet in taxes,” he said.
Mr O’Sullivan, of the Munster Bar, Tralee, also said 10 of the 11 Fianna Fáil councillors in Kerry were in favour of the compromise proposals put forward by publicans.
He said he still had some hope that a “small bit of common sense” will prevail on the Government’s side and that a compromise, allowing for smoking and non-smoking areas in pubs, can be agreed.
However, speaking from Rome, Tourism Minister John O’Donoghue warned publicans the ban would be enforced. Publicans face fines of 1,900 if someone is caught smoking on their premises.
“I understand there is a major challenge for the business practice of pubs across the country. I certainly respect the right of John O’Sullivan and the vintners in Kerry to voice their view and opinions on this public health initiative.
“Irrespective, this law is being introduced in January and will apply equally to everybody without exception,” said the South Kerry TD.
Meanwhile, new research has shown smoking in the workplace could be costing the economy as much as 5 million a day.
Health Minister Micheál Martin says the study, by UCD economist Dr David Madden, further strengthened his position on introducing a ban on smoking in all workplaces, including pubs, next January.