Judith Hiester: Tobacco Prevention Program Coordinator, Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

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As people lifted their mugs in pubs across Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick's Day last week, they did so in smoke-free environments. Since 2004, all pubs, bars and restaurants in Ireland have been smoke-free because of a comprehensive law that protects workers from secondhand smoke.

Before the indoor smoking ban went into effect, critics warned of the dire economic effects on sales at restaurants, pubs and bars and the ability to enforce the law, but the Office of Tobacco Control in Ireland recently published two studies, one and six months after the law went into effect, and discovered just the opposite.

"The research indicates the number of nonsmokers visiting pubs and bars has increased slightly since the introduction of the new law, while the number of smokers has remained the same," Dave Molloy, Chief Inspector for Ireland's Office of Tobacco Control, wrote in the one month report on the Office of Tobacco Control's new law.

In addition, a follow-up study completed six months after the law found a 94 percent compliance rate, including 99 percent compliance in restaurants.

"Six months on, clean, healthy smoke-free environments now are a normal part of everyone's work and social life. We are pleased with the consistently high levels of compliance ..." said Molloy.

Across the globe, other countries have followed suit.

Norway, New Zealand, Italy, Bhutan, Uganda and Sweden have passed 100 percent smoke-free workplace laws to protect workers from secondhand smoke.

Every year in the United States, exposure to secondhand smoke has been estimated to result in 53,000 annual deaths, according to the National Cancer Institute.

For those who want to quit smoking in Colorado, the FREE Colorado Quitline (English and Spanish), at 1-800-639-QUIT (7848) and the Colorado QuitNet, at co.quitnet.com -- offer tobacco cessation services free of charge to everyone in the state. To date, these services have helped 37,000 Coloradans through the quitting process.

Judith Hiester

Tobacco Prevention Program Coordinator

Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

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