Northern Ireland's Health Minister, Shaun Woodward, has announced that smoking in all enclosed public places will be banned from April 2007.

Announcing the measure at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall, Mr Woodward said the protection of workers from second-hand smoke was a matter of social justice.

'No-one has a right to subject colleagues and workmates to the dangers and hazards of second-hand smoke and passive smoking. No-one has a right to subject members of the public who do not smoke to those same dangers in enclosed public spaces,' said Mr Woodward.

He continued: 'I am today announcing my decision to introduce legislation to control smoking in all workplaces and enclosed public spaces. I say to smokers, smoke if you wish to but not at work and not in enclosed public spaces.'

Mr Woodward said a decision would still have to be reached on whether the ban would apply in prisons and psychiatric institutions.

Recent results from a public consultation exercise showed that 91% of respondents favoured a ban following the one imposed in the Republic in March 2004.

Two studies have also indicated that the health of bar staff in the Republic has improved under the smoking ban.

A study in the British Medical Journal found a significant drop in the number of bar staff experiencing respiratory problems since the ban in Ireland was introduced.

Another study published in the Tobacco Control Journal had similar findings, but also found that more than 80% of those who had quit smoking said the ban had helped them to do it.