Wednesday 19 June 2019

Tobacco control quango to go up in smoke

Tom Prendeville

The Office of Tobacco Control (OTC) is to 'go up in smoke' as the Government stubs out at least one quango.

In its heyday, it was the bane of pubs across the country, even threatening to force them to remove old-fashioned mirrors and tin ashtrays advertising long-dormant tobacco products. It also ruthlessly policed outdoor smoking areas for any hint of a wall or roof that wasn't the regulatory size.

One Dublin publican says he was forced by OTC officials to pull up all his outdoor shrubs because they deemed the shrubbery "a wall".

The office also banned packets of 10 cigarettes -- long favoured by moderate smokers -- forcing people into the habit of buying 20 at a time.

The Office of Tobacco Control is to be merged into the Health Services Executive during 2011, with staff transferred to the health quango. The office's budget for 2010 is €1.8m and it has a staff complement of 13 people.

"The Office of Tobacco Control co-ordinates the national inspection programme and HSE environmental health inspectors do the actual inspections," explained its spokesman Pat Montague.

John Mallon, who runs smokers' lobby group Forest Eireann is understandably delighted at the OTC's demise.

"The Office of Tobacco Control should never have been set up. Tobacco is a perfectly legal product, its use is self-regulating and you don't need a government agency to tell you how much you can smoke.

"We are campaigning for the right to have comfortable smoking rooms in pubs. To have people smoking out in the open is pure vindictiveness," he added.

Sunday Independent

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