Northern Ireland Launches Smoke-Free Legislation Report

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Air in pubs is cleaner, more people are trying to quit smoking and compliance with the smoke-free legislation remains high.

These are the key findings of a report launched by the Health Minister on No Smoking Day, which examined the impact of the smoke-free legislation in Northern Ireland, one year after its introduction.

The report, ‘Smoke-Free Legislation in Northern Ireland - A One Year Review’ found that:

* There was a 94% reduction in average fine air particulate levels and a 92% reduction in average air nicotine levels;

* Compliance levels remain high with 97% of businesses respecting the smoking ban;

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* There was a 56% increase in the number of people setting a quit date, leading to a 2% reduction in overall smoking compliance from 25% in 2006/07 to 23% in 2007/08.

The Minister said: “The legislation has ensured that we can work and socialise in the knowledge that we are safe from exposure to the toxic chemicals produced by tobacco smoke. The air we breathe is now much cleaner and healthier with our research showing a 92% reduction in air nicotine levels. It is therefore not surprising that the people of Northern Ireland have totally embraced this legislation.

Compliance levels remain high at 97%. The Minister continued: “I want to thank businesses for their co-operation and compliance. The people of Northern Ireland wanted this legislation and jointly business and the general public are continuing to make it work. I must also pay tribute to local council environmental health teams for their role and continued commitment.”

The Minister acknowledged that further work was required to achieve the department’s ultimate aim of a tobacco-free society.

He said: “Although not the main aim of the smoke-free legislation, I am pleased that more smokers have taken steps to quit. Our smoking prevalence rate is now 23%, the lowest it has been in over 20 years.

“Smoking is a highly destructive habit so I want to bring this rate down even further and I know the vast majority of smokers want to give up. This is No Smoking Day and I would encourage you do so today. Help is available through specialist smoking cessation services, including those based in community pharmacies, where support is now more accessible than ever following my decision to reduce the cost of prescriptions before they become free in 2010.”

Pharmacy services provide a 12 week support programme of advice with Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), if appropriate, supplied free to smokers who are exempt from prescription charges. For those who pay for their prescriptions a 4 month pre-payment certificate can be purchased at a cost of only £9 where it had previously been £38.85.

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