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Cigarette ban ignites new dating ritual

Ireland’s pioneering ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants seems to be helping some addicts to kick the habit and may be promoting a new way to meet people, Ireland’s health minister said on Tuesday.
WOMAN SMOKES A CIGARETTE OUTSIDE COUNTY LOUTH BAR AFTER IRELAND'S SMOKING BAN CAME INTO FORCE
A woman smokes a cigarette outside Fitzpatricks bar near Dundalk, Ireland, on March 29, the day the smoking ban became official.Toby Melville / Reuters file
/ Source: Reuters

Ireland’s pioneering ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants seems to be helping some addicts to kick the habit and may be promoting a new way to meet people, Ireland’s health minister said on Tuesday.

Micheal Martin, visiting Norway which in June becomes the second nation in the world after Ireland to outlaw smoking in bars and restaurants, said the Irish ban was working well since its launch at the end of March.

The nationwide laws, inspired by bans in places such as California and New York City, are meant to protect waiters and other workers from second-hand smoke. But they are having other side-effects, Martin said.

Informal polls of smoking habits indicated that about 25 percent of Irish adults smoked daily, down from 27 percent in a national lifestyle survey two years ago, he said.

“Anecdotally a lot of people are talking of giving up or have reduced,” he said. People who used to smoke 10 cigarettes a night in a pub were now perhaps smoking just four. About 16,000 people had contacted a ’quit smoking’ telephone hotline.

“The major social phenomenon that has arisen from this, I’m told, is a new type of dating,” he added. Men have been striking up conversations with women while they smoke legally outside bars and clubs.

“Outdoors is apparently the place to touch base, to make contact,” he said, quoting newspaper reports. He joked that the worry now was that people would start smoking to help dating.

Protecting workers
He said that figures from New York indicated that bar and restaurant takings slipped in the first two months after a ban before recovering to normal in about a year.

“Generally speaking the world has gone on pretty much as before,” he said. He said that 97-98 percent of workplaces were complying with the law. Pubs without a place for smokers to huddle from the rain outside were perhaps suffering most.

“This law is meant to protect workers,” said Norwegian Health Minister Dagfinn Hoybraaten. “But I have also understood that very many Norwegians have resolved to stop from June 1.”

He said that 26 percent of Norwegian adults smoked in 2003, down from 29 percent in 2002. Smoking is blamed for causing cancer, respiratory and heart diseases.

When the ban starts next week, visitors to Oslo airport will be met by a poster of two men by a river proudly holding up a fish. The text reads: “The only thing we smoke here is salmon.”