The Minister for Health has said he intends to introduce a ban on smoking in pubs, restaurants, and hotels on 1 January 2004.

Mícheál Martin said that there was enormous public support for extending the ban on environmental tobacco smoke.

The Minister published draft regulations to provide for this ban. Public sector union, IMPACT, and the bar workers' union, MANDATE, has welcomed the move.

The Irish Medical Organisation has also welcomed the Minister's proposals.

IMO Vice President, Dr Joe Barry, said the organisation had been lobbying on tobacco-related illnesses for many years. Dr Barry called on employers and the general public to support the ban.

He said research had confirmed that passive smoke was a carcinogen, and caused lung cancer, as well as causing heart disease, and respiratory problems in adults and children.

Studies show that workers exposed to passive smoking face a 30% greater risk of heart disease over non-smokers.

A scientific review, commissioned by the Health and Safety Authority and the Office for Tobacco Control, says that workers subjected to passive smoking need legislation to protect them from serious effects on their health.

The risk of lung cancer from passive smoking is 90 times higher than the risk of developing cancer due to asbestos in buildings.

The report, by of an independent scientific working group, is unequivocal in its findings that smoking in the workplace is damaging workers' health.

Trade unions including MANDATE called for such a ban, but vintners have opposed it.