When Irish eyes are glaring


If you heard a low rumble from the east on Monday, it wasn’t thunder. Not the meteorological kind anyway. It was one-million Irish smokers grumbling.

You see, on Monday, Ireland became the first country in Europe to ban smoking in any enclosed workplace. That means offices, private clubs, billiard halls and – TEN-THOUSAND PUBS!

I can’t imagine a European pub without cigarette smoke; but under the guidelines of the Irish Office of Tobacco Control, pub owners could face fines up to $4,000 per offense if they fail to make "all reasonable efforts" to deter smoking. That means "no smoking" signs at the entrances, bar areas and restrooms. The bar staff are to tell smokers they’re committing an offense; and if the puffers don’t stop, the staff is to refuse them service and ask them to leave.

And this just a fortnight past St. Patrick’s Day! Are the shamrocks weeping?

Surveys have shown that a majority of Ireland’s 3.9-million people support the ban; but the very idea is brain-bollixing. It’s the most sweeping restriction on cigarette smoking imposed by any nation.

Not smoke in a pub? Incredible!

Sir Walter Raleigh must be spinning in his grave. However, the idea isn’t so crazy to those of us who live on the Central California Coast, U.S. of A. When Tom Beegan, director general of Ireland’s Health and Safety Authority, came to the States last September to study possible ramifications of such a ban, one of his most important stops was San Luis Obispo.


Because SLO was the first place in the world to ban smoking in bars. On August 2, 1990.

Over 13 years ago!

McCarthy’s Irish Pub on Court Street in SLO was the first Irish pub where you couldn’t have a puff whilst quaffing your pint.

Beegan checked it out as well as the California Men’s Colony between SLO and Morro Bay, where the inmates cannot smoke. Since the prisoners at the Colony haven’t rioted, Beegan figured maybe the Irish publicans and their patrons won’t, either. (Of course, that was before Humidor Arnold became California Governor and started agitating for a space in the Capitol building where he could smoke his big cigars. If the Gov gets his fumarole, the state cig-suckers will demand their own – preferably back indoors. It’s a California type of issue...)

But I suspect that Beegan and his Irish anti-weed supporters will eventually win. As the older addicts die out, younger customers will accept the new ban. However, Beegan also told the local paper that sales of Guinness are down 15 percent in Ireland over the past two years. Maybe those younger folks are already going to Starbucks!

Well, even without an ashtray in over a decade, McCarthy’s Irish Pub in SLO is selling more Guinness than ever – and this in a college town with a coffee shop on darn near every corner.

So Erin go bragh – and nicotine-free as well.