7,000 Irish Have Kicked the Habit After Workplace Smoking Ban, Official Says

As governments and businesses here in the United States wrestle with the issue of banning cigarette smoking in the workplace, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern says his country's controversial workplace smoking ban has been "an outstanding success."

Ahern, in a speech marking the upcoming anniversary of the smoking ban legislation, estimated that 7,000 smokers have kicked the habit since Ireland outlawed smoking in all workplaces -- including restaurants and pubs -- last March 29. He said many more smokers have cut down.

Ahern also said a government-funded stop-smoking hotline launched in October 2003 has fielded more than 30,000 calls.

Despite vigorous resistance from Ireland's pub owners, Ahern said compliance rates have been "consistently high."

"In fact, given that smoke-free workplaces are now being seen as the norm, it is hard to believe that the ban is only 1 year old," Ahern said.

The smoking ban will have long-term health benefits for Ireland, Ahern said, as he pointed to estimates that 90 percent of all lung cancers are attributed to active or passive (second-hand) smoking. The ban also will lighten the burden smokers place on Ireland's health care system, Ahern said.

"The government decided to introduce the ban because it was the right thing to do for the health of workers everywhere and particularly for those in the catering industry, who were deemed to be most at risk from passive smoking," Ahern said. "There is no doubt now that this groundbreaking measure has proven to be an outstanding success."

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