Since Monday 30 April 2007 it is against the law to smoke in enclosed and substantially enclosed workplaces and public places, including bars, clubs and restaurants.
The smoke-free legislation, which has received overwhelming support across Northern Ireland, is designed to protect workers and the public from the serious health effects of second-hand smoke.
The process began on 17 October 2005, when the then Health Minister Shaun Woodward announced his intention to introduce comprehensive legislative controls to protect employees and the public from exposure to second-hand smoke.
This announcement followed a major public consultation between December 2004 and March 2005 that received more than 70,000 responses to questions about strengthening existing controls on tobacco use in Northern Ireland. Over 90% of respondents expressed support for comprehensive controls similar to those already in place in the Republic of Ireland.
Further consultation exercises were carried out from 6 March to 5 May 2006, and from 25 September to 3 November 2006 on draft regulations underpinning the Order. Views were sought on a range of issues including the proper definition of 'enclosed' and 'substantially enclosed' premises, requirements for the content and display of no-smoking signs, exemptions to the legislation, and arrangements in relation to fixed penalty notices.
This legislation will save lives. It will protect workers and the public from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, which increases the risk of stroke, lung cancer and heart disease.