Publicans 'completely opposed' to outdoor smoke-free zones

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland want the outdoor areas to be tobacco-free because of the need to maintain social distancing and to protect customers and staff.
Publicans 'completely opposed' to outdoor smoke-free zones
File photo
File photo

The Licensed Vintners Association says it is “completely opposed” to all outdoor pub areas becoming non-smoking zones when they reopen.

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland want the outdoor areas to be tobacco-free because of the need to maintain social distancing and to protect customers and staff.

The RCPI's policy group on tobacco has written to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, urging him to implement their proposal as part of the country's reopening strategy.

The group's chair, Prof Des Cox, said customers seated in the outdoor areas of bars to facilitate social distancing should not be exposed to second-hand smoke.

“We would be completely opposed to any measure along these lines which would further hit an industry that is already on its knees,” said Donall O'Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA.

Mr O'Keeffe said the existing smoking ban had worked well and there had been a high level of compliance by both businesses and customers.

The head of the representative body for Dublin publicans said measures like the one proposed by the RCPI would require new legislation but a new government would also be required for that to happen.

The Vintners Federation of Ireland, the trade organisation for pubs outside of the Dublin area, said they had yet to meet with government to discuss protocols for reopening on August 10.

“Right now, we require guidance from government about what social distancing will entail so publicans can start to renovate their pubs in time for August 10,” a VFI spokesperson said.

There were huge challenges ahead for the trade, including the “stark reality” that for many publicans it would not be economically viable to open under social distancing guidelines.

“If there are too few people allowed into your pub, there is no ability to trade profitably,” said the spokesperson.

“Publicans will operate under whatever legislation is in place at the time. Public health is our number one priority and, as always, we will be guided by what the Chief Medical Officer decides.”

Prof Cox, a consultant in paediatric respiratory medicine, said the outdoor areas of most public houses were currently designated smoking areas.

“If outdoor areas are to be used to facilitate social distancing when bars open up again, then smoking should be prohibited from all areas of all pubs when they reopen,” he said.

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