But what impact has the smoking ban had in the first place to try it? Amy Lanning went to Ireland to find out
It's been three years since the Irish government banned smoking in public places, but the worthy health message hasn't had the result it set out to. The mass of smokers reaching for nicotine patches instead of their usual pack of 20 has failed to materialise. Instead, it's convenience store retailers' sales that have seen the benefits.
Figures from Imperial Tobacco show that, on average, smokers in Ireland now puff on just half a stick less a day than they did before the ban. And any concerned retailer in the England can take heart from the fact that Irish convenience stores' tobacco sales have not shrunk but risen in those three years, with sales of other categories on the up, too.
Before the ban, convenience stores' tobacco market share in Ireland was 25.9%, and just six months into the ban, that had risen to 31.1%. Between January 2005 and December 2006, it increased even further to 32.3%. The main casualties have been the on trade, with market share down from 4.1% to 1.8%, and vending, which has seen its share drop from 10.2% to 7.2%.
Deirdre Healy, corporate affairs manager for Imperial Tobacco, says: "Convenience stores can really make a lot from the ban. The convenience sector is very strong in Ireland anyway - even more so than in the UK. Vending in Ireland is more significant than in the UK because it's not premium priced, but people are buying cigarettes in convenience stores on their way to the pub. If the convenience channel is open to this, they can do very well."
The smoking ban has had very little impact on smokers other than where they smoke, says Healy. "Smokers have adapted to their new environment and are finding different places to smoke," she points out.
This is clear to see in a tour of Dublin pubs. The on-trade has gone to great lengths to adapt their premises with elaborate outdoor smoking facilities, complete with heaters and plasma TVs. But that's not to say that the pub trade hasn't suffered from the rise in entertaining at home caused by the smoking ban.
According to Healy, 70% of Diageo's sales were through the on-trade in 2001, compared with 50% in 2006, with off trade taking a greater share. "The main channels to benefit from the ban have been c-stores, forecourts and off licences," explains Healy. "It's expensive to go out - it's cheaper to stay at home and bring your friends over. Smokers are resilient to change and have accepted the changes as their new way of life."
Before the ban, 29.4% of Irish people smoked. That dipped to 28% after the ban, but has now levelled out at 29.3%. "Ireland also has a 10% immigrant population, but the consumer research is picking up very few of them," says Healy.
Just prior to the ban in January to March 2004, the average number of sticks smoked a day was 17.66 - a lower level than the October to December 2003 period (18.3 sticks) because it takes into account new years' resolutions. Between April and June 2004 - just after the ban - this dropped to 16.61 sticks, but has now gone back, rising to 17.7 in October to December 2006.
While many of the pubs in Dublin now have excellent facilities for smokers, it wasn't so when the ban was first implemented.
"When the ban came in, the on-trade thought they could stop it at the last minute, whereas Scottish pubs were prepared in advance because they learnt from Ireland," says Healy.
This late realisation had more of an impact on female smokers. "There was a greater dip among women smokers," says Healy. "That might have been because many were smoking lighter cigarettes, but in 2006 to 2007 women have come back up again - the pubs now have facilities in place. Consumers in Ireland had no experience of the ban anywhere at all. It was a whole shock to the system."
Just over a year into the ban in Scotland and the number of sticks smoked per day is at the same level as it was before the ban. Sales initially fell by about 8%, but taking into account the usual seasonality of the market it was more like 3-4% down, says Healy. The average Scot now smokes nearly as many cigarettes as they did before the ban.
"Sales fell sharply immediately after the ban, but are now recovering," says Healy. "Sales of 10s packs saw an initial increase but have settled down to their original volume, and 40s packs have risen in volume consistently against the pre-ban average. The weather also has an impact. In the summer people are outside more so will smoke more."
For convenience stores in the UK, the message is to look at all categories in at-home entertaining. "Retailers need to look at all the other areas in home entertaining, such as alcohol, snacks and barbecue - it's not just about tobacco," says Healy.
She adds: "This is where convenience stores are going to benefit. There are sales up for grabs and convenience stores can steal a march from other traders."
Dennis Williams, Broadway Star Supermarket, Edinburgh
"Our tobacco sales dropped instantly by 20-25%, but they've slowly come back up to normal. It was an immediate drop, but we've seen sales creep up by 5% each month after that. It's had no impact on other categories, either.
"We've always had a no-smoking policy in the store for health and safety reasons, so we've had no problem enforcing the law.
"I think the smoking ban is the best thing the Scottish government has done for me, being a non-smoker, even though it had a negative impact on my trade for a short time."
With more people smoking on the streets of Dublin, litter has become a bigger problem. "Businesses should make sure they have proper ashtray disposal outside. There's nothing worse than seeing lots of fag butts on the floor," says Deirdre Healy, corporate affairs manager for Imperial Tobacco.
Local authorities in the UK can serve Street Litter Control Notices on occupiers of commercial and retail premises used for the sale of food and drink off the premises.
Failure to comply with a notice is an offence which can lead to a fine of up to £2,500.
Bilal Pasha, manager, Londis, St Stephen's Green North, Dublin
"My tobacco and cigarette sales haven't gone down at all. People are still buying the same things and the same pack sizes. I was a little bit concerned when I first knew the ban was coming in, but I soon noticed that sales weren't dropping.
"We've had no problems with people smoking in the shop. You couldn't smoke in any c-store, even before the ban. We used to get people who would come in smoking, but when you asked them to put it out they would usually do it without any problem.
"I think people's drinking in pubs has gone down - it's had more of an impact on the pubs. But for us, off licence sales have gone up."
Know the law
In each entrance to smoke-free premises there must be at least one A5 sign displaying the no-smoking symbol. It must be at least 70mm in diameter and say: "No smoking. It is against the law to smoke in these premises".
A no-smoking symbol for secondary entrances used only by staff will suffice.
Failure to display signage will incur a penalty up to Level 3, which is £1,000, or a penalty notice of £200, reduced to £150 if paid within 15 days.
Smoking in a smoke-free place could lead to a penalty up to Level 1, which is £200, or a penalty notice of £50, reduced to £30 if paid within 15 days.
For failure to prevent smoking in a smoke-free place, the penalty will be up to Level 4, which is £2,500, and no alternative penalty notice.
Anyone in charge of a smoke-free premises is under duty to stop people from smoking there. The law will be enforced by environmental health officers and port health authorities.
Reasonable measures should be taken to ensure that staff, customers and visitors are aware of the law and that they do not smoke on your premises. If the person smoking is an employee and a warning has been ignored, the employer should immediately ask them to leave. If the person refuses, normal disciplinary procedure for anti-social/illegal behaviour in the workplace should be implemented. If the person smoking is a customer, retailers should explain that staff are obliged to refuse to serve them if they continue to smoke. If the customer continues smoking, they should be asked to leave. If they refuse, the retailer should implement the normal procedure for anti-social/illegal behaviour. Records of all incidents and outcomes should be maintained.
Source: Winckworth Sherwood, solicitors & parliamentary agents